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Title: Beautiful Wales
Author: Thomas, Edward
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Beautiful Wales" ***

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                            BEAUTIFUL WALES

                           AGENTS IN AMERICA
                         THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
                     64 & 66 FIFTH AVENUE, NEW YORK

[Illustration: THE STACK, HOLYHEAD]

                            BEAUTIFUL WALES

                        PAINTED BY ROBERT
                        FOWLER · R·I · DESCRIBED
                        BY EDWARD THOMAS
                        WITH A NOTE ON MR.
                        FOWLER'S LANDSCAPES
                        BY ALEX. J. FINBERG
                        PUBLISHED BY A. & C.
                        BLACK · LONDON · MCMV



A few of my jests, impressions of scenery, and portraits in this book
have already been printed in _The Daily Chronicle_, _The World_, _The
Week's Survey_, _The Outlook_, and _The Illustrated London News_. I have
only to add that the line of verse on p. 34 is by Mr. Ernest Rhys; the
lines on p. 71 are by Mr. T. Sturge Moore; and those on pp. 130 and 178
by Mr. Gordon Bottomley: and to confess, chiefly for the benefit of the
solemn reviewer, that I know nothing of the Welsh language.

                                                          EDWARD THOMAS.


                               CHAPTER I


                               CHAPTER II

 ENTERING WALES                                                      28

                              CHAPTER III


                               CHAPTER IV


                               CHAPTER V

 WALES MONTH BY MONTH                                                99



                         LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

  1. The Stack, Holyhead                                  _Frontispiece_

                                                             FACING PAGE

  2. Summer Evening, Anglesey Coast                                    2

  3. Yachts, Anglesey Coast                                            4

  4. Beaumaris—Moonlight                                               6

  5. The Beach, Beaumaris                                              8

  6. The Trout Stream                                                 12

  7. Near Menai Straits                                               14

  8. Near Bangor                                                      18

  9. A Footpath on the Great Orme                                     20

 10. A View from the Great Orme's Head                                24

 11. Old Cottage and Ruins of Abbey, Great Orme's Head                26

 12. Breezy Morning, Llandudno Bay                                    28

 13. Country Lane                                                     30

 14. A Nocturne, Llandudno Bay                                        32

 15. Conway from Benarth—Early Morning                                36

 16. Near Colwyn Bay                                                  38

 17. Distant View of Penmaenmawr—Early Morning Light                  42

 18. Silvery Light, Conway Shore                                      44

 19. A Mountain Pass—Noon                                             48

 20. Conway Castle and Quay—Noon                                      50

 21. Conway Valley                                                    54

 22. Carnarvon, from Anglesey                                         56

 23. Boddnant Hall, Conway Valley                                     60

 24. Carnarvon Castle                                                 62

 25. Distant View of Carnarvon Bay                                    66

 26. On the River Seiont, Carnarvonshire—Evening Glow                 68

 27. Bridge, Cwm-y-Glo—Evening                                        72

 28. Field Path, near Llanrug                                         74

 29. Windy Day, near Llanrug                                          78

 30. Morning Mists, near Trefriw                                      80

 31. Distant View of Bettws-y-Coed                                    82

 32. The Old Bridge, Bettws-y-Coed                                    84

 33. Swallow Falls, Bettws-y-Coed                                     86

 34. Fairy Glen, Bettws-y-Coed                                        90

 35. Church Pool, Bettws-y-Coed                                       92

 36. Miner's Bridge on River Llugwy                                   96

 37. Sunny Field, near Llanberis                                     100

 38. Welsh Farm, near Llanberis                                      104

 39. Snowdon from Cwm-y-Glo                                          106

 40. Snowdon from Llanberis Lake                                     108

 41. Snowdon from Traeth Mawr                                        110

 42. Snowdon from Capel Curig Lake—Summer Evening                    114

 43. In the Lledr Valley                                             116

 44. Duffws Mountain                                                 120

 45. Duffws Mountain in Mist                                         122

 46. Coming Night, near Beddgelert                                   126

 47. Aberglaslyn                                                     128

 48. View of Moelwyn                                                 132

 49. A Hayfield near Portmadoc                                       134

 50. Valle Crucis Abbey                                              136

 51. View of Llangollen                                              138

 52. A Lonely Shore near Penrhyn Deudraeth                           140

 53. The Shore near Harlech—Afternoon                                142

 54. In the Woods, Farchynys, Barmouth Estuary                       146

 55. Incoming Tide, near Barmouth                                    148

 56. Barmouth Bridge                                                 152

 57. Misty Morning, near Barmouth                                    154

 58. A Lonely Shore, Barmouth Estuary                                156

 59. View from Bontddu, Dolgelly                                     158

 60. Thundery Weather, near Dolgelly                                 160

 61. Near Penmaen Pool—Noon                                          162

 62. View of Cader Idris                                             164

 63. Mist on Cader Idris                                             168

 64. In the Woods, Berwyn                                            170

 65. Aberdovey                                                       172

 66. Sunny Afternoon, Cardigan Bay                                   176

 67. A Sudden Squall, Cardigan Bay                                   178

 68. St. David's—Bishop's Palace                                     180

 69. The Stacks, near Tenby                                          182

 70. St. Catherine's Rock, Tenby                                     186

 71. Old Roman Bridge, near Swansea                                  188

 72. View near Mumbles, Swansea                                      192

 73. Pennard Castle, Glamorganshire                                  194

 74. Old Castle Keep, Cardiff                                        198

  _The Illustrations in this volume have been engraved and printed in
                     by Hentschel Colourtype, Ltd._


                               CHAPTER I

Among friends and acquaintances and authors, I have met many men who
have seen and read more of Wales than I can ever do. But I am somewhat
less fearful in writing about the country, inasmuch as few of them seem
to know the things which I know, and fewer still in the same way. When I
read their books or hear them speak, I am interested, pleased, amazed,
but seldom am I quite sure that we mean the same thing by Wales;
sometimes I am sure that we do not. One man writes of the country as the
home of legends, whose irresponsibility puzzles him, whose naïveté
shocks him. Another, and his name is legion, regards it as littered with
dead men's bones, among which a few shepherds and miners pick their way
without caring for the lover of bones. Another, of the same venerable
and numerous family as the last, has admired the silver lake of
Llanberis or blue Plynlimmon; has been pestered by the pronunciation of
Machynlleth, and has carried away a low opinion of the whole language
because his own attempts at uttering it are unmelodious and even
disgusting; has fallen entirely in love with the fragrant Welsh ham,
preferring it, in fact, to the curer and the cook. Others, who have not,
as a rule, gone the length of visiting the persons they condemn, call
the Welshmen thieving, lying, religious, and rebellious knaves. Others
would repeat with fervour the verse which Evan sings in Ben Jonson's
masque, _For the Honour of Wales_:

                And once but taste o' the Welsh mutton,
                Your English seep's not worth a button:

and so they would conclude, admitting that the trout are good when
caught. Some think, and are not afraid of saying, that Wales will be
quite a good place (in the season) when it has been chastened a little
by English enterprise: and I should not be surprised were they to begin
by introducing English sheep, though I hardly see what would be done
with them, should they be cut up and exposed for sale. The great
disadvantage of Wales seems to be that it is not England, and the only
solution is for the malcontents to divide their bodies, and, leaving one
part in their native land, to have the rest sent to Wales, as they used
to send Welsh princes to enjoy the air of two, three, and even four
English towns, at the same time and in an elevated position.


Then also there are the benevolent writers of books, who have for a
century repeated, sometimes not unmusically, the words of a fellow who
wrote in 1798, that the beauty of Llangollen "has been universally
allowed by gentlemen of distinguished taste," and that, in short, many
parts of Wales "have excited the applause of tourists and poets." Would
that many of them had been provided with pens like those at the
catalogue desks of the British Museum! Admirable pens! that may be put
to so many uses and should be put into so many hands to-day and
to-morrow. Admirable pens! and yet no one has praised them before.
Admirable pens that will not write; and, by the way, how unlike those
which wrote this:—

"Caldecot Castle, a grand and spacious edifice of high antiquity, occurs
to arrest the observation of the passing stranger about two miles beyond
the new passage; appearing at no great distance across the meadows that
lie to the left of the Newport road. The shattered remnants of this
curious example of early military architecture are still so far
considerable as to be much more interesting than we could possibly have
been at first aware, and amply repaid the trouble of a visit we bestowed
upon it, in our return through Monmouthshire by the way of Caldecot
village. In the distance truly it does not fail to impress the mind with
some idea of its ancient splendour, for it assumes an aspect of no
common dignity: a friendly mantling of luxuriant ivy improves, in an
eminent degree, the picturesque effect of its venerable mouldering
turrets; and, upon the whole, the ruin altogether would appear
unquestionably to great advantage, were it, fortunately for the admirers
of artless beauty, stationed in a more conspicuous situation, like the
greater number of edifices of a similar nature in other parts of the

The decency, the dignity, the gentlemanliness (_circa_ 1778), the
fatuity of it, whether they tickle or affront, are more fascinating than
many better but less portentous things. There was, too, a Fellow of the
Royal Society who said in the last century that, in the Middle Ages, St.
Winifred's Well and Chapel, and the river, and Basingwerk, must have
been "worthy of a photograph."


Yet there are two others who might make any crowd respectable—the
lively, the keen-eyed, the versatile Mr. A. G. Bradley, and George
Borrow, whose very name has by this time absorbed and come to imply more
epithets than I have room to give. From the former, a contemporary, it
would be effrontery to quote. From the latter I allow myself the
pleasure of quoting at least this, and with the more readiness because
hereafter it cannot justly be said that this book does not contain a
fine thing about Wales. Borrow had just been sitting (bareheaded) in the
outdoor chair of Huw Morus, whose songs he had read "in the most distant
part of Lloegr, when he was a brown-haired boy"; and on his way back to
Llangollen, he had gone into a little inn, where the Tarw joins the
Ceiriog brook. "'We have been to Pont-y-Meibion,' said Jones, 'to see
the chair of Huw Morus,' adding, that the Gwr Boneddig was a great
admirer of the songs of the Eos Ceiriog. He had no sooner said these
words than the intoxicated militiaman started up, and, striking the
table with his fist, said: 'I am a poor stone-cutter—this is a rainy day
and I have come here to pass it in the best way I can. I am somewhat
drunk, but though I am a poor stone-mason, a private in the militia, and
not so sober as I should be, I can repeat more of the songs of the Eos
than any man alive, however great a gentleman, however sober—more than
Sir Watkin, more than Colonel Biddulph himself.'

"He then began to repeat what appeared to be poetry, for I could
distinguish the rhymes occasionally, though owing to his broken
utterance it was impossible for me to make out the sense of the words.
Feeling a great desire to know what verses of Huw Morus the intoxicated
youth would repeat, I took out my pocket-book and requested Jones, who
was much better acquainted with Welsh pronunciation, under any
circumstances, than myself, to endeavour to write down from the mouth of
the young fellow any verses uppermost in his mind. Jones took the
pocket-book and pencil and went to the window, followed by the young
man, scarcely able to support himself. Here a curious scene took place,
the drinker hiccuping up verses, and Jones dotting them down, in the
best manner he could, though he had evidently great difficulty to
distinguish what was said to him. At last methought the young man said,
'There they are, the verses of the Nightingale (Eos), on his


"... A scene in a public-house, yes! but in a Welsh public-house. Only
think of a Suffolk toper repeating the deathbed verses of a poet; surely
there is a considerable difference between the Celt and the Saxon?"

But the number is so great of sensible, educated men who have written on
Wales, or would have written if business or pleasure or indolence or
dislike of fame had not prevented them, that either I find it impossible
to visit the famous places (and if I visit them, my predecessors fetter
my capacity and actually put in abeyance the powers of the places), or,
very rarely, I see that they were imperfect tellers of the truth, and
yet feel myself unwilling to say an unpleasant new thing of village or
mountain because it will not be believed, and a pleasant one because it
puts so many excellent people in the wrong. Of Wales, therefore, as a
place consisting of Llandudno, Llangammarch, Llanwrtyd, Builth,
Barmouth, Penmaenmawr, Llanberis, Tenby, ... and the adjacent streams
and mountains, I cannot speak. At ——, indeed, I ate poached salmon and
found it better than any preserver of rivers would admit; it was dressed
and served by an Eluned (Lynette), with a complexion so like a rose that
I missed the fragrance, and movements like those of a fountain when the
south wind blows; and all the evening they sang, or when they did not
sing, their delicate voices made "llech" and "llawr" lovely words: but I
remember nothing else. At —— I heard some one playing _La ci darem la
mano_: and I remember nothing else. Then, too, there was ——, with its
castle and cross and the memory of the anger of a king: and I remember
that the rain outside my door was the only real thing in the world
except the book in my hand; for the trees were as the dreams of one who
does not care for dreams; the mountains were as things on a map; and the
men and women passing were but as words unspoken and without melody. All
I remember of —— is that, as I drew near to it on a glorious wet Sunday
in winter, on the stony roads, the soles began to leave my boots. I knew
no one there; I was to reach a place twelve miles ahead among the
mountains; I was assured that nobody in the town would cobble on Sunday:
and I began to doubt whether, after all, I had been wise in steadily
preferring football boots to good-looking things at four times the
price; when, finally, I had the honour of meeting a Baptist—a
Christian—a man—who, for threepence, fixed my soles so firmly that he
assured me they would last until I reached the fiery place to which he
believed I was travelling, and serve me well there. I distrusted his
theology, and have yet to try them on "burning marl," but they have
taken me some hundreds of miles on earth since then.

[Illustration: THE BEACH, BEAUMARIS]

It would be an impertinence to tell the reader what Llangollen is like,
especially as he probably knows and I do not. Also, I confess that its
very notoriety stupefies me, and I see it through a cloud of newspapers
and books, and amid a din of applausive voices, above which towers a
tremendous female form "like Teneriffe or Atlas unremoved," which I
suppose to be Lady Eleanor Butler.

Nevertheless, I will please myself and the discerning reader by
repeating the names of a few of the places to which I have never been,
or of which I will not speak, namely, Llangollen, Aberglaslyn,
Bettws-y-Coed, the Fairy Glen, Capel Curig, Colwyn, Tintern, Bethesda,
Llanfairfechan, Llanrhaiadr, Llanynys, Tenby (a beautiful flower with a
beetle in it), Mostyn, Glyder Fach and Glyder Fawr, Penmaenmawr,
Pen-y-Gader, Pen-y-Gwryd, Prestatyn, Tremadoc, the Swallow Falls, the
Devil's Bridge, the Mumbles, Harlech, Portmadoc, Towyn, and Aberdovey
(with its song and still a poet there). I have read many lyrics worse
than that inventory.

                  *       *       *       *       *

But there is another kind of human being—to use a comprehensive
term—of which I stand in almost as much awe as of authors and those
who know the famous things of Wales. I mean the lovers of the Celt.
They do not, of course, confine their love—which in its extent and its
tenuity reminds one of a very great personage indeed—to the Celt; but
more perhaps than the Japanese or the Chinese or the Sandwich Islander
the Celt has their hearts; and I know of one who not only learned to
speak Welsh badly, but had the courage to rise at a public meeting and
exhort the (Welsh-speaking) audience to learn their "grand mother
tongue." Their aim and ideal is to go about the world in a state of
self-satisfied dejection, interrupted, and perhaps sustained, by days
when they consume strange mixed liquors to the tune of all the fine
old Celtic songs which are fashionable. If you can discover a possible
Celtic great-grandmother, you are at once among the chosen. I cannot
avoid the opinion that to boast of the Celtic spirit is to confess you
have it not. But, however that may be, and speaking as one who is
afraid of definitions, I should be inclined to call these lovers of
the Celt a class of "decadents," not unrelated to Mallarmé, and of
æsthetes, not unrelated to Postlethwaite. They are sophisticated,
neurotic—the fine flower of sounding cities—often producing exquisite
verse and prose; preferring _crême de menthe_ and _opal hush_ to
metheglin or stout, and Kensington to Eryri and Connemara; and
perplexed in the extreme by the Demetian with his taste in wall-papers
quite untrained. Probably it all came from Macpherson's words, "They
went forth to battle and they always fell"; just as much of their
writing is to be traced to the vague, unobservant things in Ossian, or
in the proud, anonymous Irishman who wrote _Fingal_ in six cantos in
1813. The latter is excellent in this vein. "Let none then despise,"
he writes, "the endeavour, however humble, now made, even by the aid
of fiction, to throw light upon the former manners and customs of _one
of the oldest and noblest nations of the earth_. That _once we were_,
is all we have left to boast of; that _once we were_, we have record
upon record.... We yet can show the stately pharos where waved the
chieftain's banner, and the wide ruin where the palace stood—the
palace once the pride of ages and the theme of song—once _Emuin a luin
Aras Ullah_." The reader feels that it is a baseness to exist. Mr.
John Davidson, who, of course, is as far removed from the professional
Celt as a battle-axe from a toothpick, has put something like the
fashionable view majestically into the mouth of his "Prime Minister":

             ... That offscouring of the Eastern world,
             The melancholy Celt, whom Latin, Greek,
             And Teuton drove through Europe to the rocks,
             The utmost isles and precincts of the sea;
             Who fight for fighting's sake, and understand
             No meaning in defeat, having no cause
             At heart, no depth of purpose, no profound
             Desire, no inspiration, no belief;—
             A twilight people living in a dream,
             A withered dream they never had themselves,
             A faded heirloom that their fathers dreamt:
             How much more happy these had they destroyed
             The spell of life at once, and so escaped
             An unregarded martyrdom, the consciousness
             Of inefficience and the world's contempt.

[Illustration: THE TROUT STREAM]

                        "An Earth-born coolness
                        Coloured with the sky."

But it is probably true that when one has said that the typical Celt is
seldom an Imperialist, a great landowner, a brewer, a cabinet minister,
or (in Wales, at least) a member of the Salvation Army, one has
exhausted the list of his weaknesses; and that not greatly wanting to be
one of these things, he has endeared himself to those to-day who have
set their hearts on gold and applause and have not gained them, and
those few others who never sought them. I heard of a pathetic, plausible
stockbroker's clerk the other day, who, having spent his wife's money
and been at last discovered by his tailor, took comfort in studying his
pedigree, which included a possibly Welsh Lewis high upon the extreme
right. He was sufficiently advanced in philology to find traces of an
Ap' in his name, which was Piper, and he could repeat some of Ossian by
heart with great emotion and less effect. I prefer the kind of Celt whom
I met in Wales one August night. It was a roaring wet night, and I
stepped into the shelter of a bridge to light a pipe. As I paused to see
if it was dawn yet, I heard a noise which I supposed to be the breathing
of a cow. My fishing-rod struck the bridge; the noise ceased, and I
heard something move in the darkness close by. I confess that my pipe
went out when, without warning, a joyous, fighting baritone voice rose
and shook the bridge with the words.

                Through all the changing scenes of life,
                  In trouble and in joy,
                The praises of my God shall still
                  My heart and tongue employ.

The voice sang all the verses of the hymn, and then laughed loudly, yet
with a wonderful serenity. Then a man stood up heavily with a sound like
a flock of starlings suddenly taking flight. I lit a match and held it
to his face and looked at him, and saw a fair-skinned, high-cheek-boned
face, wizened like a walnut, with much black hair about it, that yet did
not conceal the flat, straight, eloquent mouth. He lit a match and held
it to my face, and looked at me and laughed again. Finding that I could
pronounce Bwlch-y-Rhiw, he was willing to talk and to share the beer in
my satchel. And he told me that he had played many parts—he was always
playing—before he took to the road: he had been a booking-office clerk,
a soldier, a policeman, a gamekeeper, and put down what he called his
variability to "the feminine gender." He would not confess where he had
been to school, and his one touch of melancholy came when, to show that
he had once known Latin, he began to repeat, in vaguely divided
hexameters, the passage in the _Aeneid_ which begins _Est in conspectu
Tenedos_. For he could not go on after _At Capys_ and was angry with
himself. But he recalled being caned for the same inability, and laughed
once more. Every other incident remembered only fed his cheerfulness.
Everything human had his praise,—General Buller in particular. I cannot
say the same of his attitude towards the divine. His conversation raised
my spirits, and I suppose that the bleared and dripping dawn can have
peered on few less melancholy men than we. "Life," said he, "is a
plaguey thing: only I don't often remember it." And as he left me, he
remarked, apologetically, that he "always had been a cheerful ——, and
couldn't be miserable," and did me the honour of supposing that in this
he resembled me.

[Illustration: NEAR MENAI STRAITS]

He went off singing, in Welsh, something not in the least like a hymn to
a fine victorious hymn tune, but had changed, before I was out of
hearing, to the plaintive, adoring "Ar hyd y nos." And I remembered the
proverbial saying of the Welsh, that "the three strong ones of the
world" are "a lord, a headstrong man, and a pauper."

                  *       *       *       *       *

Having heard and read the aforesaid authors, tourists, higher
philatelists, and lovers of the Celt, I need hardly say, firstly, that I
have come under their influence; secondly, that I have tried to avoid
it; and thirdly, that I am not equal to the task of apportioning the
blame between them and myself for what I write.

And, first, let me ease my memory and pamper my eyes, and possibly make
a reader's brain reverberate with the sound of them, by giving the names
of some of the streams and lakes and villages I have known in Wales. And
among the rivers, there are Ebbw and Usk, that cut across my childhood
with silver bars, and cloud it with their apple flowers and their
mountain-ash trees, and make it musical with the curlew's despair and
the sound of the blackbird singing in Eden still; and Towy and Teivy and
Cothi and Ystwyth; and, shyer streams, the old, deserted, perhaps
deserted, pathways of the early gods, the Dulais and Marlais and Gwili
and Aman and Cenen and Gwenlais and Gwendraeth Fawr and Sawdde and
Sawdde Fechan and Twrch and Garw; and those nameless but not
unremembered ones (and yet surely no river in Wales but has a name if
one could only know it well enough) that crossed the road like welcomed
lingerers from some happier day, flashing and snake-like, and ever about
to vanish and never vanishing, and vocal all in reed or pebble or sedge,
some deep enough for a sewin, others too shallow to wash the dust from
the little pea-like toes of the barefooted child that learns from them
how Nile and Ganges flow, and why Abana and Pharpar were dear, and why
these are more sweet; and there is Llwchwr, whose voice is bright in
constant shadow; and Wye; and the little river in a stony valley of
Gower which at first reminded me, and always reminds me, of the
adventure of Sir Marhaus, Sir Gawaine, and Sir Uwaine.

"And so they rode, and came into a deep valley full of stones, and
thereby they saw a fair stream of water; above thereby was the head of
the stream a fair fountain, and three damosels sitting thereby. And then
they rode to them, and either saluted other, and the eldest had a
garland of gold about her head, and she was threescore winter of age or
more, and her hair was white under the garland. The second damosel was
of thirty winter of age, with a circlet of gold about her head. The
third damosel was but fifteen year of age, and a garland of flowers
about her head. When the knights had so beheld them, they asked them the
cause why they sat at that fountain? 'We be here,' said the damosels,
'for this cause: if we may see any errant knights, to teach them unto
strange adventures; and ye be three knights that seeken adventures, and
we be three damosels, and therefore each one of you must choose one of
us; and when ye have done so we will lead you unto three highways, and
there each of you shall choose a way and his damosel with him. And this
day twelvemonth ye must meet here again, and God send you your lives,
and thereto ye must plight your troth.' 'This is well said,' said Sir
Marhaus." And no other than a Welsh story-teller could have made that
clear picture of the three damosels.

And there is Severn in its wild and unnoted childhood, its lovely and
gallant youth, its noble and romantic prime, as it leaves Wales and
passes Shrewsbury, the pattern of all famous streams—

               Fluminaque antiquos subterlabentia muros;

and its solemn, grey, and mighty and worldly-wise old age, listening to
its latest daughter the Wye, where it has

              A cry from the sea, a cry from the mountain;

and Clwyd and Conway and Ceiriog and Aled and Dovey, streams that
remember princes and bards; and the little waters flowing from Cwellyn
Lake, of which a story is told.

[Illustration: NEAR BANGOR]

Near the river which falls from Cwellyn Lake, they say that the fairies
used to dance in a meadow on fair moonlit nights. One evening the heir
to the farm of Ystrad, to which the meadow belonged, hid himself in a
thicket near the meadow. And while the fairies were dancing, he ran out
and carried off one of the fairy women. The others at once disappeared.
She resisted and cried, but he led her to his home, where he was tender
to her, so that she was willing to remain as his maid-servant. But she
would not tell him her name. Some time afterward he again saw the
fairies in the meadow and overheard one of them saying, "The last time
we met here, our sister Penelope was snatched away from us by one of the
mortals." So he returned and offered to marry her, because she was
hard-working and beautiful. For a long time she would not consent; but
at last she gave way, on the condition "that if ever he should strike
her with iron, she would leave him and never return to him again." They
were happy together for many years; and she bore him a son and a
daughter; and so wise and active was she, that he became one of the
richest men of that country, and besides the farm of Ystrad, he farmed
all the lands on the north side of Nant-y-Bettws to the top of Snowdon,
and all Cwm Brwynog in Llanberis, or about five thousand acres. But one
day Penelope went with him into a field to catch a horse; and as the
horse ran away from him, he was angry and threw the bridle at him, but
struck Penelope instead. She disappeared. He never saw her again, but
one night afterward he heard her voice at his window, asking him to take
care of the children, in these words:

                Oh, lest my son should suffer cold,
                Him in his father's coat enfold:
                Lest cold should seize my darling fair,
                For her, her mother's robe prepare.

These children and their descendants were called the Pellings, says the
teller of the tale; and "there are," he adds, "still living several
opulent and respectable persons who are known to have sprung from the
_Pellings_. The best blood in my own veins is this fairy's."


And of lakes, I have known Llyn-y-Fan Fach, the lonely, deep, gentle
lake on the Caermarthen Fan, two thousand feet high, where, if the dawn
would but last a few moments longer, or could one swim but just once
more across, or sink but a little lower in its loving icy depths, one
would have such dreams that the legend of the shepherd and the lady whom
he loved and gained and lost upon the edge of it would fade away: and
Llyn Llech Owen, and have wondered that only one legend should be
remembered of those that have been born of all the gloom and the golden
lilies and the plover that glories in its loneliness; for I stand in
need of a legend when I come down to it through rolling heathery land,
through bogs, among blanched and lichened crags, and the deep sea of
heather, with a few flowers and many withered ones, of red and purple
whin, of gorse and gorse-flower, and (amongst the gorse) a grey curling
dead grass, which all together make the desolate colour of a "black
mountain"; and when I see the water for ever waved except among the
weeds in the centre, and see the waterlily leaves lifted and resembling
a flock of wild-fowl, I cannot always be content to see it so remote, so
entirely inhuman, and like a thing a poet might make to show a fool what
solitude was, and as it remains with its one poor legend of a man who
watered his horse at a well, and forgot to cover it with the stone, and
riding away, saw the water swelling over the land from the well, and
galloped back to stop it, and saw the lake thus created and bounded by
the track of his horse's hooves; and thus it is a thing from the
beginning of the world that has never exchanged a word with men, and now
never will, since we have forgotten the language, though on some days
the lake seems not to have forgotten it. And I have known the sombre
Cenfig water among the sands, where I found the wild goose feather with
which I write.

And I have seen other waters; but least of them all can I forget the
little unnecessary pool that waited alongside a quiet road and near a
grim, black village. Reed and rush and moss guarded one side of it, near
the road; a few hazels overhung the other side; and in their
discontented writhing roots there was always an empty moorhen's nest,
and sometimes I heard the bird hoot unseen (a sound by which the pool
complained, as clearly as the uprooted trees over the grave of Polydorus
complained), and sometimes in the unkind grey haze of winter dawns, I
saw her swimming as if vainly she would disentangle herself from the two
golden chains of ripples behind her. In the summer, the surface was a
lawn of duckweed on which the gloom from the hazels found something to
please itself with, in a slow meditative way, by showing how green could
grow from a pure emerald, at the edge of the shadow, into a brooding
vapourish hue in the last recesses of the hazels. The smell of it made
one shudder at it, as at poison. An artist would hardly dare to sit near
enough to mark all the greens, like a family of snaky essences, from the
ancient and mysterious one within to the happy one in the sun. When the
duckweed had dissolved in December, the pool did but whisper that of all
things in that season, when

             Blue is the mist and hollow the corn parsnep,

it alone rejoiced. It was in sight of the smoke and the toy-like
chimney-stacks of the village, of new houses all around, and of the
mountains. It had no possible use—nothing would drink of it. It did not
serve as a sink, like the blithe stream below. It produced neither a
legend nor a brook. It was a whole half-acre given up to a moorhen and
innumerable frogs. It was not even beautiful. And yet, there was the
divinity of the place, embodied, though there was no need for that, in
the few broken brown reeds that stood all the winter, each like a
capital Greek _lambda_, out of the water. When the pool harboured the
image of the moon for an hour in a winter night, it seemed to be
comforted. But when the image had gone, the loss of that lovely captive
was more eloquent than the little romantic hour. And I think that, after
all, the pool means the beauty of a pure negation, the sweetness of
utter and resolved despair, the greatness of Death itself.

And I have been to Abertillery, Pontypool, Caerleon, infernal Landore,
Gower, Pontardulais, Dafen, Llanedi, Llanon (where only the little Gwili
runs, but good children are told that they shall go to Llanon docks),
Pen-y-Groes, Capel Hendre, Maesy-bont, Nantgaredig, Bolgoed, Pentre
Bach, Bettws, Amanford, Llandebie, Pentre Gwenlais, Derwydd, Ffairfach,
Llandeilo, Tal-y-Llychau, Brynamman, Gwynfe, Llanddeusant, Myddfai,
Cil-y-Cwm, Rhandir Mwyn, and the farms beyond,—Maes Llwyn Fyddau,
Bwlch-y-Rhiw, Garthynty, Nant-yr-ast, Blaen Cothi, Blaen
Twrch,—Llanddewi Brefi, Tregaron, Pont Llanio, Llanelltyd, Bettws
Garmon, Bala, Aber Dusoch.... And I have crossed many "black" mountains,
and Gareg Lwyd, Gareg Las, the Banau Sir Gaer, Crugian Ladies, Caeo,
Bryn Ceilogiau, Craig Twrch, and Craig-y-Ddinas....


The chapels and churches, Siloh, Ebenezer, Llanedi, Llandefan,
Abergwesyn, Llanddeusant, ... but I dare not name them lest I should
disturb some one's dreams, or invite some one to disturb my own. They
are all in the admirable guide-books, which say nothing of the calm and
the nettles and the shining lizards and the sleepy luxurious Welsh
reading of the lessons at ——; and the wet headstones at ——, where you
may lean on any Sunday in the rain and hear the hymn take heaven by
storm, and quarrel melodiously upon the heights, and cease and leave the
soul wandering in the rain as far from heaven as Paolo and Francesca in
their drifts of flame; and ——, white and swept and garnished, and always
empty, and always lighted by a twilight four hundred years old, the door
being open and ready to receive some god or goddess that delays; and
Soar at ——, so blank, lacking in beauty and even in ugliness,—so blank
that when one enters, the striving spirit will not be content, and
perforce takes flight and finds an adventure not unlike that of the man
who was once returning from Beddgelert fair by a gloomy road, and saw a
great and splendid house conspicuously full of gaiety in a place where
no such house had seemed to stand before; and supposing that he had lost
his way, he asked and was given a lodging, and found the chambers bright
and sounding with young men and women and children, and slept deeply in
a fine room, on a soft white bed, and on waking and studying his
neighbourhood, saw but a bare swamp and a tuft of rushes beneath his

And there is Siloh at ——, standing bravely,—at night, it often seems
perilously,—at the end of a road, beyond which rise immense mountains
and impassable, and, in my memory, always the night and a little, high,
lonely moon, haunted for ever by a pale grey circle, looking like a
frail creature which one of the peaks had made to sail for his pleasure
across the terrible deeps of the sky. But Siloh stands firm, and
ventures once a week to send up a thin music that avails nothing against
the wind; although close to it, threatening it, laughing at it, able to
overwhelm it, should the laugh become cruel, is a company of elder
trees, which, seen at twilight, are sentinels embossed upon the
sky—sentinels of the invisible, patient, unconquerable powers: or (if
one is lighter-hearted) they seem the empty homes of what the mines and
chapels think they have routed; and at midnight they are not empty, and
they love the mountain rain, and at times they summon it and talk with
it, while the preacher thunders and the windows of the chapel gleam.



And there is ——, where an ancient, unwrinkled child used to talk in
gentle, melancholy accents about hell to an assembly of ancient men who
sometimes muttered "Felly, felly," as men who had heard it so often that
they longed to be there and to taste and to see; where the young men and
maidens sang so lustily and well that I wondered the minister never
heard them, or, hearing, understood them. To the children, when they
listened, his mild ferocity did but put an edge on the bird's-nesting of
the day before and the day after. When they did not listen, some of them
looked through the windows and saw heaven as fresh and gaudy, in the
flowers of a steep garden close by, as in the coloured pictures of
apostles and lambs on their bedroom walls; but chiefly in the company of
delicate lime trees that stood above the garden, on a grassy breast of
land. The fair, untrodden turf below them shone even when the sun was
not with it. The foliage of all the limes, in autumn, ripened together
to the same hue of gold. It burned and was cool. It flamed and yet had
something in it of the dusk. It was the same as when, many years ago,
two children saw in it some fellowship with the coloured windows at
Llandaff, and with the air of an old library that had "golden silence
and golden speech" over the door. And the trees seemed to be a council
of blessed creatures devising exquisite enjoyments and plotting to
outwit the preacher. They might be not ill-chosen deputies of leisure,
health, and contemplation, and all that fair and reverend family. In the
cool gloom at the centre of the foliage sat also Mystery, with palms
linked before her eyelids, unlinking them but seldom, lest seeing might
shut out visions.

                               CHAPTER II
                             ENTERING WALES

The best way into Wales is the way you choose, provided that you care.
Some may like the sudden modern way of going to sleep at London in a
train and remaining asleep on a mountain-side, which has the advantage
of being the most expensive and the least surprising way. Some may like
to go softly into the land along the Severn, on foot, and going through
sheath after sheath of the country, to reach at last the heart of it at
peaty Tregaron, or the soul of it on Plynlimmon itself. Or you may go by
train at night; and at dawn, on foot, follow a little stream at its own
pace and live its fortnight's life from mountain to sea.


Or you may cross the Severn and then the lower Wye, and taking Tredegar
and Caerleon alternately, or Rhigws and Landore, or Cardiff and Lantwit,
or the Rhondda Valley and the Vale of Neath, and thus sharpening the
spirit, as an epicure may sharpen his palate, by opposites, find true
Wales everywhere, whether the rivers be ochre and purple with
corruption, or still as silver as the fountain dew on the mountain's
beard; whether the complexions of the people be pure as those of the
young cockle-women of Penclawdd, or as heavily superscribed as those of
tin-platers preparing to wash. Or you may get no harm by treading in the
footsteps of that warm-blooded antiquarian, Pennant, who wrote at the
beginning of his tours in Wales: "With obdurate valour we sustained our
independency ... against the power of a kingdom more than twelve times
larger than Wales: and at length had the glory of falling, when a
divided country, beneath the arms of the most wise and most warlike of
the English monarchs." That "we" may have saved the soul even of an

But the entry I best remember and most love was made by a child whom I
used to know better than I have known anyone else. He disappeared, after
a slow process of evanishment, several years ago: and I will use what I
know as if it were my own, since the first person singular will help me
to write as if I should never be subjected to the dignity of print,—as
if I were addressing, not the general reader, but some one who cared.

At a very early age, I (that is to say, he, _bien entendu_) often sat in
a room in outer London, where I now see that it was probably good to be.
It was always October there, and the yellow poplar leaves were always
falling. And so also there was always a fire—a casket in which emeralds
and sapphires contended with darker spirits continually. Where are the
poplars now? Where the leaves which loved the frost that spoiled them at
last? Where the emeralds and sapphires—and the child? There were late
October twilights that seemed so mighty in their gentleness and so
terrible in their silence that they alarmed the child with fear of
desolation, until the spell was suspended by lighted lamps and drawn
curtains and fearless voices of elder persons, though one could draw the
curtains and see the thing still, and oneself, and the very fire,
outside in its embrace. And still

            The jealous ear of night eave-dropped our talk.

[Illustration: COUNTRY LANE]

I think those twilights have overwhelmed all at last, and they have
their way with child and trees and fire. But they have spared one thing,
which even in those days was more puissant than the fire, though they
have left their marks upon it, and now it seems a less mighty thing if
one goes to it soberly too critically, or even too cheerfully. For a
picture hung in the room, and the last October sunlight used to fall
upon it when the silence set in. The picture meant Wales.

In the foreground, a stream shone with ripples in the midst, and glowed
with foam among the roots of alders at the edge. Branches with white
berries overhung the stream; and there were hornbeams and writhen oaks;
and beyond them, a sky with a shaggy and ancient storm in it, and
wrestling with that, and rising into it, the ruins of an Early English
chancel. The strength and anger and tenderness and majesty of it were
one great thought. I still think that could deeds spring panoplied from
thoughts, and could great thoughts of themselves do anything but flush
the cheek, such a simply curving landscape as this would be at the
bidding of one of those great thoughts that empty all the brain....
Under one of the columns by the chancel, the artist meant to have drawn
vaguely a pile of masonry and a muscular ivy stem. And that was the
point of the picture, because it seemed to be a kneeling knight, with
one forearm on an oval shield and the other buried in his beard, and his
head bent. I suppose that the thought that it was a knight, and that the
knight was Launcelot, first came as I looked at the picture once,
straight from a book where I had been reading:

"Then Sir Launcelot departed, and when he came to the Chapel Perilous,
he alighted, and tied his horse to a little gate. And as soon as he was
within the churchyard he saw on the front of the Chapel many fair, rich
shields turned upside down; and many of the shields Sir Launcelot had
seen knights have before; with that he saw standing by him thirty great
knights, more by a yard than any man that he had ever seen, and all
these grinned and gnashed at Sir Launcelot; and when he saw their
countenances he dreaded them sore, and so put his shield afore him, and
took his sword in his hand ready to do battle; and they were all armed
in black harness, ready with their shields and swords drawn. And when
Sir Launcelot would have gone through them they scattered on every side
of him, and gave him the way to pass; and therewith he waxed all bold,
and entered into the Chapel, and there he saw no light but a dim lamp
burning, and then he was aware of a corse covered with a cloth of silk.
And as Sir Launcelot stooped down and cut a piece of the cloth away, the
earth quaked, and he was afraid...."


And the picture was a picture of the Chapel Perilous; and thus out of a
poor story-book and a dear picture and the dim poplars in the dim
street, I made a Launcelot who was not merely an incredible mediæval
knight of flesh and armour, but a strange immortal figure that lived and
was desirable and friendly in the grey rain of a suburb in the
nineteenth century.

                  *       *       *       *       *

This was the beginning of the creation of Wales. Or shall I say that it
was the beginning of the discovery? Let the reader decide, with the help
of the explanation, that I use the words as I should use them of a play
of Shakespeare's, or a picture of Titian's, or any other living thing
which grows and changes and is born again, in age after age, as
certainly and as elusively as the substance of a waterfall is changed;
even in one moment these things are never the same to any two observers,
backward or advanced, egotistical or servile, blind or keen....

Looking back, the artistry of time makes it appear that soon after I had
become certain that the painter had somehow caught Launcelot kneeling at
the foot of the column, I reached Wales.

There I saw one of the Round Tables of Arthur, but also a porpoise hunt
in the river close by; and the porpoise threshed the water so that the
shining spray now hides the Round Table from my view. And I heard the
national anthem of Wales: and at first I cowered beneath the resolved
and terrible despair of it, forgetting that—

              In every dirge there sleeps a battle-march;

so that I seemed to look out from the folds of a fantastic purple
curtain of heavily embroidered fabric upon a fair landscape and an awful
sky; and I know not whether the landscape or the sky was the more
fascinating in its mournfulness.

            And I heard sounds of insult, shame, and wrong,
              And trumpets blown for wars,—

and it was of Arthur's last battle that I dreamed. But the sky cleared,
and I seemed to let go of the folds of the curtain and to see a red
dragon triumphing and the shielded Sir Launcelot again; and next, it was
only a tournament that I saw, and there were careless ladies on high
among the golden dust. And, at last, I could once more think happily of
the little white house where I lived, and the largest and reddest apples
in all the world that grew upon the wizened orchard, and the smoked
salmon and the hams that perfumed the long kitchen, and all the shining
candlesticks, and the wavy, crisp, thin leaves of oaten bread that were
eaten there with buttermilk: and the great fire shook his rustling sheaf
of flames and laughed at the wind and rain that stung the window-panes;
and sometimes a sense of triumph arose from the glory of the fire and
the vanity of the wind, and sometimes a sense of fear lest the fire
should be conspiring with the storm. That also was Wales—a meandering
village street, the house with the orchard, and a white river in sight
of it, and the great music of the national anthem hovering over it and
giving the whole a strange solemnity.

Just beyond the village, but not under the same solemn sky, I see an
island of apple trees in spring, which in fact belongs to a somewhat
later year. It was reached by a mile of winding lane that passed the
slender outmost branches of the village, and lastly, a shining cottage,
with streaked and mossy thatch, and two little six-paned windows,
half-filled with many-coloured sweets, and boasting one pane of
bottle-glass. Outside sat an old woman; her moist, grey, hempen curls
framing a cruel face which had been made by three or four swift strokes
of a hatchet; her magnificent brown eyes seeming to ponder heavenly
things and really looking for half-pence. A picture would have made
her—wringing her hands slowly as if she were perpetually washing, or
sitting bolt upright and pleased with her white apron—a type of resigned
and reverend and beautiful old age. On the opposite side of the road was
a white and thatched piggery, half the size of the house; and alongside
of it, a neat, moulded pile of coal-dust, clay, and lime, mixed, for her
ever-burning fire. The pigs grunted; the old woman, who would herself
watch the slaughtering, sat and was pleased, and said, "Good morning,"
and "Good afternoon," and "Good evening" as the day went by, except when
the children were due to pass to and from school, with half-pence to

Just beyond this dragon and its house, an important road crossed the
lane, which then narrowed and allowed the hedgerow hazels to arch over
it and let in only the wannest light to the steep, stony hedge-bank of
whin and grass and fern and violets. Little streams ran this way and
that, under and over and alongside the lane, and at length a larger one
was honoured by a bridge, the parapet covered with flat, dense, even
turf. The bridge made way for a wide view, and to invite the eye a
magpie flew away from the grassy parapet with wavy flight to a mountain


Between the bridge and the mountain, and in fact surrounded by streams
which were heard although unseen, was an island of apple trees.

There were murmurs of bees. There was a gush and fall and gurgle of
streams, which could be traced by their bowing irises. There was a
poignant glow and fragrance of flowers in an air so moist and cold and
still that at dawn the earliest bee left a thin line of scent upon it.
Beyond, the mountain, grim, without trees, lofty and dark, was clearly
upholding the low blue sky full of slow clouds of the colour of the
mountain lambs or of melting snow. This mountain and this sky, for that
first hour, shut out, and not only shut out but destroyed, and not only
destroyed but made as if it had never been, the world of the old woman,
the coal-pits, the schools, and the grown-up persons. And the magic of
Wales, or of Spring, or of childhood made the island of apple trees more
than an orchard in flower. For as some women seem at first to be but
rich eyes in a mist of complexion and sweet voice, so the orchard was
but an invisible soul playing with scent and colour as symbols. Nor did
this wonder vanish when I walked among the trees and looked up at the
blossoms in the sky. For in that island of apple trees there was not one
tree but was curved and jagged and twisted and splintered by great age,
by the west wind, or by the weight of fruit in many autumns. In colour
they were stony. They were scarred with knots like mouths. Some of their
branches were bent sharply like lightning flashes. Some rose up like
bony, sunburnt, imprecating arms of furious prophets. One stiff, gaunt
bole that was half hid in flower might have been Ares' sword in the
hands of the Cupids. Others were like ribs of submerged ships, or the
horns of an ox emerging from a skeleton deep in the sand of a lonely
coast. And the blossom of them all was the same, so that they seemed to
be Winter with the frail Spring in his arms. Nor was I surprised when
the first cuckoo sang therein, since the blossom made it for its need.
And when a curlew called from the mountain hopelessly, I laughed at it.

[Illustration: NEAR COLWYN BAY]

When I came again and saw the apple trees in flower, the island was very
far away, and the unseen cuckoo sang behind a veil and not so suitably
as the curlew. There was something of the dawn in the light over it,
though it was mid-day; and I could hardly understand, and was inclined
to melancholy, until chance brought into my head the poem of the old
princely warrior poet Llywarch Hên, and out of his melancholy and mine
was born a mild and lasting joy. He sang:

        Sitting high upon a hill, to battle is inclined
        My mind, but it does not impel me onward.
        Short is my journey, my tenement is laid waste.

        Sharp is the gale, it is bare punishment to live.
        When the trees array themselves in gay colours
        Of Summer, extremely ill am I this day.

        I am no hunter, I keep no animal of the chase,
        I cannot move about:
        As long as it pleases the cuckoo, let her sing.

        The loud-voiced cuckoo sings with the dawn,
        Her melodious notes in the dales of Cuawg:
        Better than the miser is the lavish man.

        At Aber Cuawg the cuckoos sing,
        On the blossom-covered branches;
        Woe to the sick that hears their contented notes.

        At Aber Cuawg the cuckoos sing.
        The recollection is in my mind,
        There are that hear them that will not hear them again.

        Have I not listened to the cuckoo on the ivied tree?
        Did not my shield hang down?
        What I loved is but vexation; what I loved is no more.

And I thought that perhaps it is even true, as Taliesin sang, that "A
man is wont to be oldest when born, and younger all the time," and that
the apple flowers did but remind me of old capacities laid waste.

                  *       *       *       *       *

These little things are the opening cadences of a great music which I
have heard, and which is Wales. But I have forgotten the whole, and have
echoes of it only, when I hear an old Welsh song, when I am trying to
catch a trout, or am eating bread and butter and white cheese, and
drinking pale tea, in a mountain farm.... One echo of it I had strangely
in Oxford, when, entertaining an old wise gipsy, and asking him of his
travels, and whether he had been in Wales, he meditated for a long time,
and then sang in an emotionless and moving tone the "Hen wlad fy
nhadau," up there among the books, the towers, and the stars. I have had
a vision of a rose. But my memory possesses only the doubtful and
withered dustiness of a petal or two.

                              CHAPTER III

Having passed the ruined abbey and the orchard, I came to a long, low
farmhouse kitchen, smelling of bacon and herbs and burning sycamore and
ash. A gun, a blunderbuss, a pair of silver spurs, and a golden spray of
last year's corn hung over the high mantelpiece and its many brass
candlesticks; and beneath was an open fireplace and a perpetual red
fire, and two teapots warming, for they had tea for breakfast, tea for
dinner, tea for tea, tea for supper, and tea between. The floor was of
sanded slate flags, and on them a long many-legged table, an oak settle,
a table piano, and some Chippendale chairs. There were also two tall
clocks; and they were the most human clocks I ever met, for they ticked
with effort and uneasiness: they seemed to think and sorrow over time,
as if they caused it, and did not go on thoughtlessly or impudently like
most clocks, which are insufferable; they found the hours troublesome
and did not twitter mechanically over them; and at midnight the twelve
strokes always nearly ruined them, so great was the effort. On the wall
were a large portrait of Spurgeon, several sets of verses printed and
framed in memory of dead members of the family, an allegorical tree
watered by the devil, and photographs of a bard and of Mr. Lloyd George.
There were about fifty well-used books near the fire, and two or three
men smoking, and one man reading some serious book aloud, by the only
lamp; and a white girl was carrying out the week's baking, of large
loaves, flat fruit tarts of blackberry, apple, and whinberry, plain
golden cakes, large soft currant biscuits, and curled oat cakes. And
outside, the noises of a west wind and a flooded stream, the whimper of
an otter, and the long, slow laugh of an owl; and always silent, but
never forgotten, the restless, towering outline of a mountain.

The fire was—is—of wood, dry oak-twigs of last spring, stout ash sticks
cut this morning, and brawny oak butts grubbed from the copse years
after the tree was felled. And I remember how we built it up one autumn,
when the heat and business of the day had almost let it die.



We had been out all day, cutting and binding the late corn. At one
moment we admired the wheat straightening in the sun after drooping in
rain, with grey heads all bent one way over the luminous amber stalks,
and at last leaning and quivering like runners about to start or like a
wind made visible. At another moment we admired the gracious groups of
sheaves in pyramids made by our own hands, as we sat and drank our
buttermilk or ale, and ate bread and cheese or chwippod (the harvesters'
stiff pudding of raisins, rice, bread, and fresh milk) among the furze
mixed with bramble and fern at the edge of the field. Behind us was a
place given over to blue scabious flowers, haunted much by blue
butterflies of the same hue; to cross-leaved heath and its clusters of
close, pensile ovals, of a perfect white that blushed towards the sun;
to a dainty embroidery of tormentil shining with unvaried gold; and to
tall, purple loosestrife, with bees at it, dispensing a thin perfume of
the kind that all fair living things, plants or children, breathe.

What a thing it is to reap the wheat with your own hands, to thresh it
with the oaken flail in the misty barn, to ride with it to the mill and
take your last trout while it is ground, and then to eat it with no
decoration of butter, straight from the oven! There is nothing better,
unless it be to eat your trout with the virgin appetite which you have
won in catching it. But in the field, we should have been pleased with
the plainest meal a hungry man can have, which is, I suppose, barley
bread and a pale "double Caermarthen" cheese, which you cut with a
hatchet after casting it on the floor and making it bounce, to be sure
that it is a double Caermarthen. And yet I do not know. For even a Welsh
hymnist of the eighteenth century, in translating "the increase of the
fields," wrote avidly of "wheaten bread," so serious was his distaste
for barley bread. But it was to a meal of wheaten bread and oat cake,
and cheese and onions and cucumber, that we came in, while the trembling
splendours of the first stars shone, as if they also were dewy like the
furze. Nothing is to be compared with the pleasure of seeing the stars
thus in the east, when most eyes are watching the west, except perhaps
to read a fresh modern poet, straight from the press, before any one has
praised it, and to know that it is good.


As we sat, some were singing the song "Morwynion Sir Gaerfyrdd-in." Some
were looking out at the old hay waggon before the gate.

Fine grass was already growing in corners of the wrecked hay waggon. Two
months before, it travelled many times a day between the rick and the
fields. Swallow was in the shafts while it carried all the village
children to the field, as it had done some sixty years ago, when the
village wheelwright helped God to make it. The waggoner lifted them out
in clusters; the haymakers loaded silently; the waggon moved along the
roads between the swathes; and, followed by children who expected
another ride, and drawn by Swallow and Darling, it reached the rick that
began to rise, like an early church, beside the elms. But hardly had it
set out for another load than Swallow shied; an axle splintered and tore
and broke in two, near the hub of one wheel, which subsided so that a
corner of the waggon fell askew into the tussocks, and the suspended
horse-shoe dropped from its place. There the mare left it, and switched
her black tail from side to side of her lucent, nut-brown haunches, as
she went.

All day the waggon was now the children's own. They climbed and slid and
made believe that they were sailors, on its thin, polished timbers. The
grass had grown up to it, under its protection. Before it fell, the
massive wheels and delicate curved sides had been so fair and strong
that no one thought of its end. Now, the exposed decay raised a smile at
its so recent death. No one gave it a thought, except, perhaps, as now,
when the September evening began, and one saw it on this side of the
serious, dark elms, when the flooded ruts were gleaming, and a cold
light fell over it from a tempestuous sky, and the motionless air was
full of the shining of moist quinces and yellow fallen apples in long
herbage; and, far off, the cowman let a gate shut noisily; the late
swallows and early bats mingled in flight; and, under an oak, a tramp
was kindling his fire....

Suddenly in came the dog, one of those thievish, lean, swift
demi-wolves, that appear so fearful of meeting a stranger, but when he
has passed, turn and follow him. He shook himself, stepped into the
hearth and out and in again. With him was one whose red face and shining
eyes and crisped hair were the decoration with which the wind invests
his true lovers. A north wind had risen and given the word, and he
repeated it: let us have a fire.

So one brought hay and twigs, another branches and knotted logs, and
another the bellows. We made an edifice worthy of fire and kneeled with
the dog to watch light changing into heat, as the spirals of sparks
arose. The pyre was not more beautiful which turned to roses round the
innocent maiden for whom it was lit; nor that more wonderful round
which, night after night in the west, the clouds are solemnly ranged,
waiting for the command that will tell them whither they are bound in
the dark blue night. We became as the logs, that now and then settled
down (as if they wished to be comfortable) and sent out, as we did
words, some bristling sparks of satisfaction. And hardly did we envy
then the man who lit the first fire and saw his own stupendous shadow in
cave or wood and called it a god. As we kneeled, and our sight grew
pleasantly dim, were we looking at fire-born recollections of our own
childhood, wondering that such a childhood and youth as ours could ever
have been; or at a golden age that never was?... The light spelt the
titles of the books for a moment, and the bard read Spenser aloud, as if
forsooth a man can read poetry in company round such a fire. So we
pelted him with tales and songs....

And one of the songs was "The Maid of Landybie," by the bard, Watcyn
Wyn. Here follows the air, and a translation which was made by an
English poet. The naïveté of the original has troubled him, and the
Welsh stanza form has driven him to the use of rhymeless feminine
endings; but I think that his version will, with the air, render not too
faintly the song I heard.



  _Air_: Y Ferch o Blwyf Penderyn.

    'Rwy'n car - u merch o Lan - dy - bi - e, Ac y mae hith-e'n fy
    nghar - u i O bob merch i - fanc yn Sir Gaer - fyrdd-in,
    'Does neb o hon - yn' mor hardd a hi, Ar ei grudd-iau mae rhos-
    - yn - au, Cym - ysg liw - iau coch a gwyn: Y hi y'wr un - ig
    ferch a fyn - af, A hith - e — dim ond y fi - ne fyn.

               I love a maid of Landybie
               And it is she who loves me too.
               Of all the women of Caermarthen
               None is so fair as she, I know.
               White and red are her cheeks' young roses,
               The tints all blended mistily;
               She is the only maid I long for,
               And she will have no lad but me.

               I love one maid of Landybie.
               And she too loves but one, but one;
               The tender girl remains my faithful,
               Pure of heart, a bird in tone.
               Her beauty and her comely bearing
               Have won my love and life and care,
               For there is none in all the kingdoms
               Like her, so blushing, kind, and fair.

               While there is lime in Craig-y-Ddinas;
               While there is water in Pant-y-Llyn;
               And while the waves of shining Loughor
               Walk between these hills and sing;
               While there's a belfry in the village
               Whose bells delight the country nigh,
               The dearest maid of Landybie
               Shall have her name held sweet and high.

[Illustration: A MOUNTAIN PASS—NOON]

When we are by this fire, we can do what we like with Time, making a
strange solitude within these four walls, as if they were cut off in
time as in space from the great world by something more powerful than
the night; so that, whether Llewelyn the Great, or Llewelyn the Last, or
Arthur, or Kilhwch, or Owen Glyndwr, or the most recent prophet be the
subject of our talk, nothing intrudes that can prevent us for the time
from being utterly at one with them. They sing or jest or make puns;
they talk of hero and poet as if they had met them on the hills; and as
the poet has said, "Folly would it be to say that Arthur has a grave."

In such a room are legends made, if made at all. In fact, I lately saw a
pretty proof of it.

The valley in which the farmhouse lies is not so fortified that some
foreign things of one kind and another cannot enter. And a miner or a
youth on holiday from London brought a song of Bill Bailey to the ears
of one of the children of the house, a happy, melancholy boy named
Merfyn. The elders caught it for a day or two, and though the song does
not recommend itself to those who are heirs to "Sospan bach" and "Ar hyd
y nos," the name of the hero stuck. The child asked who he was, and
could get no answer. When anything happened about the farm that could
not easily be explained, it was jestingly said that Bill Bailey was at
the bottom of it. The child seriously caught up the name and the
mystery, and applied it with amusing and strange effect. Thus, when he
had asked who made the mushrooms in the dawn, and was not satisfied, he
himself decided, and with pride and joy announced, that they were Bill
Bailey's work. Looking into the fire one night, and seeing faces that he
could not recognise among the throbbing heat, he saw Bill Bailey, as he
surmised. Thus is a new solar hero being bred. The last news is that he
made Cader Idris and Orion and the Pleiades, and that the owls cry so
sadly because he is afoot in the woods.


And yet, if we are so unwise as to draw back the curtain from the window
at night, the illusion of timelessness is broken for that evening, and
in the flower-faced owl by the pane, in the great hill scarred with
precipices, and ribbed with white and crying streams, with here and
there a black tree disturbed and a very far-off light, I can see nothing
but the past as a magnificent presence besieging the house. At such
times the legends that I remember most are those of the buried and
unforgotten lands. What I see becomes but a symbol of what is now
invisible. And sometimes I dream of something hidden out there and
elaborating some omnipotent alcahest for the world's delight or the
world's bane; sometimes, as when I passed Llanddeusant and Myddfai, I
could see nothing that was there, because I was thinking of what had
been long ago. There is still a tradition on the coast that Cardigan Bay
now covers a country that was once populous and fair and rich. The son
of a prince of South Wales is said to have had charge of the floodgates
on the protecting embankment, and one night the floodgates were left
open at high tide, while he slept with wine, and the sea was over the
corn. "Seithenyn the Drunkard let in the sea over Cantre-'r-Gwaelod, so
that all the houses and lands contained in it were lost. And before that
time there were in it sixteen fortified towns superior to all the towns
and cities in Wales, except Caerlleon on the Usk. And Cantre-'r-Gwaelod
was the dominion of Gwyddno, King of Cardigan, and this event happened
in the time of Ambrosius. And the people who escaped from that
inundation came and landed in Ardudwy, the country of Arvon, the Snowdon
mountains, and other places not before inhabited...." The sands in some
places uncover the roots of an old forest. According to one tradition
the flood took place during a feast. The harper suddenly foresaw what
was to happen and warned the guests; but he alone escaped. There is also
a tradition that Bala Lake covers old palaces. It is said that they have
been seen on clear moonlit nights, when the air is one sapphire, and
that a voice is heard saying, "Vengeance will come"; and another voice,
"When will it come?" and again the first voice saying, "In the third
generation." For a prince once had a palace where the lake is. He was
cruel and persisted in his cruelty, despite a voice that sometimes cried
to him, "Vengeance will come." One night there was a bright festival in
the palace, and there were many ladies and many lords among the guests,
for an heir had just been born to the prince. The wine shone and was
continually renewed. The dancers were merry and never tired. And a voice
cried, "Vengeance." But only the harper heard; and he saw a bird
beckoning him out of the palace. He followed, and if he stopped, the
bird called, "Vengeance." So they travelled a long way, and at last he
stopped and rested, and the bird was silent. Then the harper upbraided
himself, and turned, and would have gone back to the palace. But he lost
his way, for it was night. And in the morning he saw one calm large lake
where the palace had been; and on the lake floated the harper's harp....

                  *       *       *       *       *

This fire, in my memory, gathers round it many books which I have read
and many men that I have spoken with among the mountains—gathers them
from coal-pits and tin-works and schools and chapels and farmhouses and
hideous cottages, beside rivers, among woods; and I have drawn a thin
line round their shadows and have called the forms that came of it men,
and their "characters" follow.

[Illustration: CONWAY VALLEY]

                               CHAPTER IV

                        MR. JONES, THE MINISTER

Jones is a little, thin, long-skulled, black-haired, pale Congregational
minister, with a stammer and a squint. He has a book-shelf containing
nothing but sermons and theology, which he has read, and the novels of
Sir Walter Scott, which he hopes to read. I suppose he believes in
metempsychosis. He is accustomed to say that everything is
theology—which is fine; and that theology is everything—which is hard.
He tries to love man as well as God, and succeeds in convincing every
one of his honesty, generosity, and industry. In the care of souls he
fears no disease or squalor or shape of death. But there is a
condescension about his ways with men. He calls them the worldliest of
God's creatures. But with the Divine he is happy and at ease, and in his
pulpit seems to sit on the right hand. Then his Biblical criticism is
absent as if it had never been, and he sees the holy things at once as
clearly as Quarles and as mystically as Herbert or Crashaw. He speaks of
them with the enthusiasm of a collector or of a man of science dealing
with a bone or a gas. Like them, he sees nothing but the subjects of the
moment. He loves them as passionately and yet with a sense of
possession. He gives to them the adoration which he seems wilfully to
have withheld from women, pageantry, gardens, palaces—which his speech
would have adorned. He lavishes upon them his whole ingenious heart, so
that, to those used to the false rhetoric and dull compliment of
ordinary worshippers, there is in his sermons something fantastical,
far-fetched, or smelling of the lamp. If he has to describe something
naked or severe, he must needs give them a kind of voluptuousness by
painting the things which they lack, and the lack of which makes them
what they are. With Herbert, he might repeat:


          My God, where is that ancient heat towards thee,
          Wherewith whole shoals of Martyrs once did burn,
            Besides their other flames? doth Poetry
          Wear Venus' livery? only serve her turn?
          Why are not Sonnets made of thee? and lays
            Upon thine altar burnt? Cannot thy love
            Heighten a spirit to sound out thy praise
          As well as she? Cannot thy Dove
          Outstrip their Cupid easily in flight?
            Or, since thy ways are deep, and still the same,
            Will not a verse run smooth that bears thy name?
          Why doth the fire which by thy power and might
            Each breast does feel, no braver fuel choose
            Than that, which one day worms may chance refuse?
          Sure, Lord, there is enough in thee to dry
            Oceans of ink; for as the Deluge did
            Cover the Earth, so does thy Majesty;
          Each cloud distils thy praise, and doth forbid
          Poets to turn it to another use.
            Roses and lilies speak thee: and to make
            A pair of cheeks of them, is thy abuse.
          Why should I women's eyes for crystal take?
          Such poor invention burns in their low mind
            Whose fire is wild, and does not upward go
            To praise, and on thee, Lord, some note bestow.
          Open the bones, and you shall nothing find
            In the best face but filth; when, Lord, in thee
            Thy beauty lies in the discovery.

It is no matter to him that to the uninspired audience his holy persons
appear only exquisite marionettes. His sermons are all of his love for
them. Could one leave out the names of prophet and evangelist, they
might seem to be addressed to earthly beauties. No eyebrow ever awakened
more glowing praise. He takes religion, as he does his severe morality,
like a sensuous delight. One might think from his epithets that he was
an æsthete, except that he is so abandoned.

When he ventures to speak of men, their very virtues and vices are all
handled in such a way that they seem to be his own imaginations. Thus,
his drunkard is as unreal and as terrible as a chimera. The words are
those of a man who has conceived a drunkard in his own brain, and then,
seeing the real thing, has preferred his own conception, and shunned the
poor human imitation. Still, he speaks of religious things, of incidents
in the life of David or Christ or the Maries, as if he had seen, for
example, the Holy Family in some misty barn among his own hills. I have
even heard him introduce a farmer whittling a flail of hazel sticks and
binding it with willow thongs, in a picture of that scene. This
quaintness and clearness are perhaps the result of his not quite healthy
asceticism. But even by the farmhouse fire he makes use of them, and
will speak of the red or brown hair of scriptural characters, and even
of the grey hair and shining eyes of Charity. In hunger or weariness or
pain, common people sometimes see things thus: he never sees them
otherwise. In the chapel they delight the older labourers, and yet fail
because they vanish in the cold night air and "leave not a rack behind."
Some hearers, on the other hand, sicken at them, when the blood is noisy
in the breast and the brain is warm, as they sicken at drugs.

It is not, therefore, surprising that at one time he had gorgeous
earthly dreams. But with an oddity of which nothing will cure him, he is
much troubled by this pomp which he desires not to see save in celestial
things. And now he allows sleep nightly but a brief victory over him.

                    THE LANDLORD OF THE "CROSS INN"

A very pretty companion for Jones was Owen, the innkeeper, a robust man
of words, who called himself the preacher's best customer, because he
needed so much of his charity.

He was a perfect Celt, according to the English superstition. For never
was there such a failure who was also such a swaggerer as he. He had
fair hair, blue eyes, and a small, elegant beard, which

            Business could not make dull, nor passion wild.

He was bullied by a contemptuous wife; he was ridiculed by all his
regular customers, rallied by the rest. But the beard was always neat
and fair, a symbol of his unconquerable mind. No matter how he was
trodden down, he smelt sweet. He had humour, for he could laugh at
himself, though he lacked the common gift of being able to laugh at
others, and had no repartee. The more lusty the Saturday night thrusts
at him, the more vivid was his reply, and it was commonly a piece of
egoism and self-exposure, which, if not so long and so wonderfully
draped, would have called for a repetition of the very blow he was
parrying. Once when he had been sold up and had little more than a wife
and a walking-stick in the world, and his position attracted some
trifling compliments and condolences from his old harriers, he stood up,
and, wielding his stick and motioning to his wife to be silent, gave an
inventory of the things he had lost with such decoration as would have
abashed an auctioneer. There is a Welsh proverb, "A Welshman keeps
nothing until he has lost it"; and the now invisible and inaccessible
furniture called up such a tumult of admiration that he cared not that
it was no longer his. How rich he looked! As the words flowed on and it
was time for his hearers to be going, it was clear that if he had
forgotten anything, he had invented more; but though he ended in no
better company than that of his wife, who picked something from his coat
and held it between the tips of two fingers for his humiliation, he but
wiped his forehead and cursed because he had forgotten the ancient
horse-trappings of brass that used to hang over the mantelpiece at the
—— Arms.


His voice, whether he sang or spoke, was of wide range and exquisite
adjustment, and he spoke with care and gusto, as if he loved his native
tongue. Under its influence, he respected nobody of any importance.
Thus, he was once pretty justly thrashed; when, having tired his
chastiser by his patience, he remarked at great length that he supposed
the other did not know who he was, and the splendour of his manner
overcame his heated companion. No sooner had he got home than he gave a
rapturous description of how one had given another a thrashing down the
road. He did it so well that he was asked whether he was the beater.
"No," said he bravely, "it happened that I was beat."

Had he lost by a bargain, had he taken a bad coin unawares, had he been
worsted in argument, he could so rant that he moved every one, and
himself obviously first of all, and made the worse appear the better. He
kept a genealogical tree in constant use by pruning and watering, and
though there was not only a prince but a poet in it, I think he gloried
less in the old splendour of his family than in the length of its fall,
as who should say he had once been so high that he was "from morn to
dewy eve" in falling.

When first I saw him, he had just come into the "Cross Inn." It was
mid-day; the weather was cold and wet; and since he never liked to see a
man drinking by himself, and the shepherds coming down from the
mountains to market had called pretty often, he was not sober. He told
me that his was a fine house—the finest in the village, and therefore in
the county; and that it had not paid the former tenant well, who had, in
fact, sold but eighteen gallons of beer in a month. He was going to do
better than that, he said; to make a beginning, he was going to drink
that quantity himself. I asked for brandy. He had not a drop, and
explained that he had a weakness for it himself—took a drop very often;
and that therefore, to get out of temptation, he had finished his stock
on the night before. "But," said he, "I have upstairs such a bed as
you—pardon me—never slept in yet."

"I have no doubt," said I, and sat down.

[Illustration: CARNARVON CASTLE]

But when he heard that I was walking across Wales, and had therefore
tried many beds, he insisted that I should see the thing. It was the
finest in the village—in the county—in Wales—"I don't see why I should
not say in the whole world." Truly it was a noble bed, in a great,
empty, raftered, uncarpeted room; the wood all darkened oak, with a
dusky gleam; the hangings ample and of a rich crimson stuff; the purity
of the linen splendid. If a royal person or a poet had not slept in it,
"that was their misfortune." He stood by, awed and reverent, beholding
the bed. I was not his equal in eloquence, and he echoed my praise with
an elaborate "of course": and for the sake of hearing some of the words
he loved, he finally invited me to spend a night in the bed, "as his
guest," so he magnificently said.

All his family were of the same temper. His father and mother had gone
to London years ago, and, at seventy years of age, to the infirmary of a

The aged paupers sat in a long, grey, motionless, and silent row—like a
sculptured frieze, or like persons expecting to be photographed—under
the wall of a church. Before them was a strip of grass, one emerald half
of which shone so that it seemed of an element like flame; for it was
pure, insubstantial colour; and into this, as the paupers saw, the tide
of the shadow of the church gradually ate. Beyond the grass was the
infirmary, and alongside it a yellow road, and on that a hearse.
Watching this and the paupers, a crowd of persons, with uninterested,
inquisitive eyes and bowler hats, stuck their noses through the railings
which ran between the busy street and the infirmary. Motor cars brayed,
hooves clattered.

Presently three men carried out a coffin, containing the remains of Mrs.
Owen, and shoved it into the hearse. "God love me, what a coffin!" said
one of the crowd. But the frieze of paupers were silent and motionless
in the long grey row—all but the husband of the corpse. He, like the
others, seemed to stare at the hearse with fixed gaze, and in a loud
voice he remembered what a bonny woman the corpse had been, and in
particular how, while a travelling musician played in the village
street, when she was past fifty years of age, she had locked herself
into the kitchen and danced, having spread a mat to deaden the clicking
of her merry clogs; and he had watched her, unobserved. The story and
his uncontrolled, bleating voice raised a laugh under the bowler hats;
and the old men lifted their heads and straightened themselves and
laughed; and most loudly and grimly of all laughed Owen, while he
remembered the cottage in sight of the beacons of Breconshire; and the
hearse rolled out and the crowd removed.

                       MR. ROWLANDS, THE MINISTER

Rowlands, another minister, is six feet and two inches in height,
seventeen stone in weight, and has a voice which is in proportion. When
he stands up, one supposes that he can never sit down; when he sits
down, one supposes that he can never stand up. Every one of his
attitudes seems to be final. Only when he is moving is his ponderosity a
little less than divine; for he moves with an odd briskness, so that,
from behind, he is like a large schoolboy on some urgent business. His
mind is subject to similar changes of aspect. In domestic life no one is
less awful than he; and were he not good-tempered, cheerful, frolicsome,
and humorous as well, he would be one of the most mirth-provoking of
mankind. On children he leaves no impression but that of weight, and in
spite of his black clothes, he once reminded a child (with a shrill
voice) of Atlas upholding the world.

In his everyday life he is a learned, happy child. His curiosity is
matched by his credulity. He is the victim not only of tradesmen,
but of beggars. He cannot keep his coat clean, and that he sews on
his own buttons is apparent from the fact that he seldom has more
than one or two of those decorations. He knows every one in his
neighbourhood—miners, farmers, parsons, and the resident
Englishmen—and knows and loves them so well that he never condemned
any one except for cruelty. For he seems to have started life with
such a strong belief in the sinfulness of men, that he has ever
since been pleased and surprised by this one's goodness and the
amiability of that one's badness. He might, in truth, have spoken of
himself in something like the words of that fine, possibly Welsh
poet of the seventeenth century, Thomas Traherne:

        A learned and a happy ignorance
                Divided me
            From all the vanity,
        From all the sloth, care, pain, and sorrow that advance
            The madness and the misery
        Of men. No error, no distraction I
        Saw soil the earth or overcloud the sky.

        I knew not that there was a serpent's sting
                Whose poison shed,
            On men, did overspread
        The world; nor did I dream of such a thing
            As sin, in which mankind lay dead.
        They were all brisk and living wights to me,
        Yea, pure and full of immortality.

        Joy, pleasure, beauty, kindness, glory, love,
                Sleep, day, life, light,
            Peace, melody, my sight,
        My ears and heart did fill and freely move.
            All that I saw did me delight.
        The universe was then a world of treasure,
        To me an universal world of pleasure....


His own verses, by the way, are not so good, for, like all Welsh
ministers, he writes a hundred lines of verse every day, perhaps to
avoid being thought singular.

He makes a fine figure of Charity in his old age, with his preoccupied
blue eyes under a brow that is marked only by three lines like three
beams thrown upward by a sun. He has a large, joyous, curving mouth,
side-whiskers, careless beard, large feet.

He has but one touch of sentiment. Nearly half a century ago he fell in
love with a pretty woman, and unsuccessfully; yet, though she is known
to be married and still alive, he has come to have for her memory a
grandfatherly tenderness, regarding her as a white and careless girl, in
spite of time. For the rest, so warm and radiant is he, that I remember
the peculiarity of Kai. "When it rained hardest, whatever he carried
remained dry for a handbreadth above and a handbreadth below his hand,
and when his companions were coldest, it was to them as fuel with which
to light their fire."

But in the pulpit—whether it is a whim or an atonement or merely a
recollection of his years at a theological college—he always makes an
attempt to dust the wrinkles of his waistcoat. In every other way he
makes his week-day self incredible to a stranger. He justifies and makes
use of his size more than any man I ever saw. Seeing him in the pulpit,
it seems fitting that he should live there day and night, so necessary a
pillar is he to the dull, small chapel, though, when holding out his
arms, as often he does, he threatens to demolish the little arches and
poor windows and to create something more splendid in their place. Going
there once in his absence, a visitor remarked to a deacon that they had
made some changes in the building; and asking what had gone from there,
he was told, "Oh, only Mr. Rowlands."

Standing there, he undertakes to speak on behalf of the Deity, whose
ways he explains, and by a magnificent self-conceit supposes that his
own stature and voice are fitting symbols to mortals incapable of
apprehending things more august. For a time, indeed, during the singing
of the hymns, there is a geniality as of lightning about his face. He
smiles; he tosses his head with the joy of the song, and may even be
supposed to feel, not without sympathy, that the mighty music says
things which were not dreamed of by prophets or apostles.



When he reads a lesson, it is plain to see that above all other Gods he
loves "the Lord that smiteth." He opens his mouth and rejoices in the
rich and massy Welsh. He makes no attempt at mere clear reading, which
would be of no use to an imaginative audience, that is familiar with the
Bible; but, raising and lowering his voice, now hurrying as if to a
precipice where all will be overthrown, now creeping as if he feared
what is to come, he makes the chapter anew, creating it as if he were
sculptor or musician. I suppose he uses nearly as many musical notes as
if he sang; but the result differs from singing, as prose from poetry;
and so noble is the prose that it suggests only one possible answer to
the question which, like a school-man, he once asked, Whether the music
of the spheres be verse or prose? Yet, if the note of the lesson is
melancholy, full of the dreariness of moving over the void and creating,
the note of the sermon is triumphant, or if not triumphant it is
minatory, or if not minatory it is scornful, and at times a listener
expects to see him wrapped in a cloud and carried away from an
undeserving and purblind race.

The medium of what English people would call his rhetoric is the "hwyl,"
an exuberant, impassioned, musical modulation of the voice, and, to
compare great things with small, comparable to the very finest intoning
to which has been added (if we can suppose it) a lyrical, egotistical
indulgence in all moods of pity, scorn, tenderness, anger, sorrow, joy,
anxiety and hope. It can be familiar or lofty. It is as powerful as harp
and song together; and the force of it often arises from the fact that
what is heard is rather the musical accompaniment of the man's thought
than the thought itself. Hence its terrible and lovely purposes, and the
many sentiments with which it is shot, and the dubiousness of the
loftier passages, as in the verses which the bards recited before Arthur
and only one man understood them, except that they were in Arthur's

I have seen him so thunder that I thought of the Llewelyns and Glyndwr,
and forgot that the castles fester no longer with Englishmen, and

                                       aerea ramis
             dependet galea et prato gravia arma quiescunt,

and for the moment, thought he was a man. No actor ever stormed and
swelled so, because no actor yet played the part which he played. It was
a chant; yet it was too uncontrollable for a chant. If you call it
declamation, you must admit that to declaim a man shall first go to
Medea, that she

         Having drawn that weakness from his limbs
         Which torpid now and chilly there abode,
         Through every vacant artery may force
         The green and joyous sap of thriving plants,—
         Juice of crushed stalks mixed with their ropy gums,
         And purpled bright with strength from berry and grape,
         Full of a stinging, swift, and masterful

For the blood of a declaimer of seventy does not travel so by ordinary
ways. Nor can a declaimer, as he does, build up for the imagination an
earth, with sky and mountains, within a little chapel, for the sake of
showing how the lightning vaults and impales the unjust man. At other
times his words rise up and circle and make fantastic architecture, as
real as dreams, for the terror of the soul that for the time is forced
to dwell therein. And though the substance of his sermon is but
anecdote, biblical reference, exhortation, warning, picturesque logic
built upon some simple religious theme, men and women weep under this
divine bullying. A man, listening outside the chapel, put his hand to
his head to make sure that his hat was on, so stiffly his hair stood up.

"Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the hills
moved and were shaken, because he was wroth....

"He bowed the heavens also, and came down: and darkness was under his

"And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: yea, he did fly upon the wings
of the wind.

"He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about him were
dark waters and thick clouds of the skies...."

Once he paused long, towards the end of a sermon, while the thunder
withdrew with a terrible solemnity which he envied; and he did not
hesitate to follow the thunder with the words, "It has been said," and
so to end.

                              THE POACHER

One who used to come in late, years ago, was Gwilym Pritchard, the


I wish to make a nice distinction between poachers and poachers. The man
who is nothing but a poacher I regard as one only in the strict literal
sense. Such a man is rare to-day. Formerly he went to the woods as
another man went to the Bar. He lived like a gentleman upon other men's
venison, and was beneath the pleasure of salt-pork broth. He would
swagger about the hamlet with a deer on his back. The deer was but a
carcass at sixpence the pound to him. He has lately stooped to dictate
his autobiography, which may be bought over the counter. A less
majestical note was never sounded. He turned gamekeeper, and no doubt
touched his cap for half-a-sovereign, and stared at his palm for a
crown. He is, in short, "one of God's creatures." But the nobler one I
have in mind seemed to bear high office in the scheme of the natural
world. A mighty man, capable of killing anything and of sparing anything
too, he was a true scholar in his kind. The pedants who peep and
botanise and cry "allium" or "cnicus" to one another in the awful woods,
and the sublime enthusiasts who cannot see the earth for the flowers,
were equally beneath him. He would give twelve hours a day at least to
the open air, as a scholar to his books. Thus he had acquired a large
erudition which would probably have exhausted a whole field of inquiry
if written down. It is fortunate that faultless observers like this hand
down nothing to posterity, since it leaves us in these latter days free
to feel ourselves discoverers when we come upon what hundreds have known
during the last thousand years. In the case of this man, the knowledge
came out not so much in speech—of which he was economical—as in infinite

                              Wearing all that weight
                  Of learning lightly like a flower.

It was shown in the way he stepped in the woods, in the way he laid his
ear to the bare ground (not the grass) to ascertain a distant noise of
footsteps. I have seen him lose a wood-pigeon by an interrupted aim,
and, standing without sound or motion, shoot the bird, that returned to
its branch, enchanted by the absence of hostile sounds; for his very
clothes were more the work of nature than the tailor, and matched the
trees like a hawk or a November moth. His belief in the earth as a
living thing was almost a superstition. I shall not forget how he took
me to a hilltop one autumn day, when the quiet gave birth to sound after
sound as we listened and let our silence grow. By a process of
elimination he set aside the wind, the birds, the falling leaves, the
water, and tried to capture for my sake the low hum which was the earth
making music to itself. And what I heard I can no more describe than the
magic of an excellent voice when once it is silent. "Depend upon it,
that means something," he said. "And now——" there was a sharp report and
a hare that I had not noticed bounded as if it had fallen from a great
height, and lay dead.


Having been caught once, I remarked that his captor must have been a
clever man. "A fool," he replied—"a fool. He'd been after me a hundred
times, and I had fooled him all but once." It was at one time his
practice to deliver a tithe of his poached game at the cottages of the
sick, infirm, or poor, _as a present from the Squire_, a notoriously
ungenerous man. His occupation had made him indifferent to the future or
the past. None ever chattered less about past happiness and future pain.
He seemed to owe a duty to the present moment of which he partook as if
he were eating ripe fruit. Even a piece of drudgery or a keen sorrow
never drove his intelligence backward or forward; pain he took as some
take medicine, on trust. Thus he was a small, though not a poor, talker.
Venturing once to greet him pleasantly with the long beginning of a
story, when I found him seated without any visible occupation, and
noticing his irritation, I said that I had supposed he was not doing
anything; to which he answered "Yes, nothing!" and continued. At one
time of his life he heard that a considerable sum of money had been left
to him. A year later, the foundering of a ship left his fortunes
unchanged; and on the afternoon of the news, he shot every pigeon at
which he raised his gun. Birds of prey he would never shoot, even to
show his skill. Jackdaws were always spared; he used to say that there
was "a bit of God" in that bird. It was noticeable, too, that here and
there he spared game birds, though he despised the race. I have seen him
raise his gun and drop it again, not without a sigh as the bird flew
off, observing that there was "something in the bird" which stayed his
hand. In men, as in birds and beasts, he was anxious to see
individuality, and loved the creature that possessed and used it. The
only time I ever saw him use contempt was towards a beggar who had
soiled his calling by theft. A good beggar, a good thief, anything
beyond which "the force of nature could no further go," he reverenced.
And he was a good poacher, glorying in the name. He died polishing the
white steel on his gun.

                          LLEWELLYN, THE BARD

Of Llewelyn, the bard, I cannot decide whether he most loves man or men.
He is for ever building castles in the air and filling them with
splendid creatures, whom he calls men. Then he laments that he cannot
find any like them on hill or in valley: when, straightway, he will meet
some human being, old friend or passing stranger, on the road or in a
shop, and away go the phantoms of his castles, and he is wild in
adoration of the new thing he has found. His grandmother, by the way,
was called a fairy's child, though the truth seems to have been that her
mother was a gipsy girl. Perhaps that is why he has no creed but many
creeds, and was looked upon with great favour by the Calvinists until
they found that he liked the Church as well. Yet I think that he likes
men truly because they remind him of something he has read or dreamed,
or because they make him dream; herein somewhat resembling the fellow
who paid much court to another because he reminded him of the late Duke
of ——, and he was a lover of dukes. Or he is like some that have seen
processions of phantoms and say that sometimes the phantoms are simply
fairies speaking an unknown tongue, but that sometimes several have the
faces and voices of some among the dead whom they used to know. Why he
is so glad to be among us at the farmhouse I have not discovered, but I
suppose we remind him of Hebrew prophets or Greekish kings, for of our
established merits he takes no thought.

I think he wastes so much pity for Annie of Lochroyan that other maids
find him passionless, and he grows tender over Burd Ellen and Cynisca as
their lovers never did. Arthur and Gwalchmai and Gwenhwyvar, the most
unreal and unliving of all the persons of literature, please him most.
In a world where all things are passing, he loves best those things
which, having past and having left a ghost of fame behind, can live for
ever in minds like his. In London he saw but a place where marsh and
river and woods had been and might be again; or where

              Sometimes a lily petal floated down
              From dear, remote pools to the dreary town;

where the gulls flew over in the mournful January light; where a few
friends had fires and lamps and books—their light faintly flickering in
tremendous gloom and making one faint reality in the place; where wind
and rain sometimes brought the past again; for the very touch of rain
and wind beckoned to him, as it is fabled that the foam driven from
waters that cover old towns will draw the unwary whom it touches into
the deeps.


He himself professes to care only for his own childhood and youth; only
he is aware, as not every one is, that the childhood began in Eden, and
is ages old, so that, after all, the few years that make middle age do
not count for much. His life and his way of looking at it remind me of a
story of a young Eastern prince. Every day, from his early childhood, a
story-teller had told him a tale. But, soon after he was sixteen, the
story-teller came to him, and, falling on his knees, told him that he
had no more stories to tell. The young prince fell into a rage and swore
that he would kill the man if, in a week, he had no new story ready. And
the story-teller, who was very old and unwilling to die, went into the
desert and neither ate nor drank, and made a plan by which to save his
life. So he returned to the young prince, who asked if he had a new
story, and he said that he had. And the prince bade him tell the story;
and he began to speak, and told the prince the story which he had told
him first, when he was a small child; and the prince was pleased. And
until the old man died, he never told a story which he had not told
before; and the prince was always pleased.

His poetry, if it could be understood, might be counted great, and
perhaps it is so in a world where trees and animals are reverenced in a
way which is hardly dawning here. He is a kind of mad Blake. He sees the
world from among the stars, and those who see it from an elevation of
five or six feet, and think that they see it as it really is, are not
satisfied. He would make human the stars and seasons; he would make
starry the flowers and the grass. He would have it that the world is but
a shadow of Blake's "Real and Eternal world": that we who are shadows
cling to the superstition that we are not, and have but prejudiced and
fearful ears for his prophecies. He sees the world as a commonwealth of
angels and men and beasts and herbs; and in it, horrible discords that
we others scarcely hear seem to him to strike the stars.

                   Each outcry of the hunted hare
                   A fibre from the brain doth tear;
                   A skylark wounded on the wing
                   Doth make a cherub cease to sing.

After all, in matters of the spirit, men are all engaged in colloquies
with themselves. Some of them are overheard, and they are the poets. It
is his fortune that he is not overheard, at least by men.


Yet how much would he sacrifice could he but write a few verses in the
old Welsh manner,—but a few verses like those he repeats as lovingly as
others would their own. First, there is the elegy on Gwenhwyvar by
Griffith ap Meredith ap Davydd:

    The wearer of white and green, of red and blue,
    Is now in the painful fold of death.
    The Church conceals her—she whom velvet so adorned.
    Wearer of velvet,
    We mourn with tears now that the flush of her beauty has faded,
    Now that the wearer of velvet and red is no more.

That he praises for its clear-eyed simplicity, its mournfulness direct
as the cry of a child, as the bravery of this is as direct as the
laughter of a child (it is by a poet who was also a prince):

    I love the time of summer, when the charger
    Of the exulting chief prances in the presence of a gallant lord,
    When the nimbly moving wave is covered with foam,
    When the apple tree is in flower,
    And the white shield is borne on my shoulder to battle.

This, also, for its simple pride:

   The men who went to Cattraeth were men of name:
   Wine and mead out of gold was their drink:
   Three men, and threescore, and three hundred, with golden torques.

How often will he repeat "with golden torques"!

But (and here some will reconsider their opinion that he is a fool, or
one "not wise" as the pleasant Welsh phrase goes) there is no one that
can laugh more loudly than he; or sing a song more happily; or join more
lustily than he in hunting on foot, over the craggy hills, some fox
which the farmer can never shoot when he comes for the turkeys in
November; and in the heat of the run he will curse the hounds for
gaining on the fox, and the fox for running no faster, saying that the
worst of fox-hunting is that it is so one-sided, since the fox is not
allowed to rejoice at the end with hounds and men.

And here is one of his imitative songs, reduced to its lowest terms by a

     She is dead, Eluned,
     Whom the young men and the old men
     And the old women and even the young women
     Came to the gates in the village
     To see, because she walked as beautifully as a heifer.

     She is dead, Eluned,
     Who sang the new songs
     And the old; and made the new
     Seem old, and the old
     As if they were just born and she had christened them.

     She is dead, Eluned,
     Whom I admired and loved,
     When she was gathering red apples,
     When she was making bread and cakes,
     When she was smiling to herself alone and not thinking of me.

     She is dead, Eluned,
     Who was part of Spring,
     And of blue Summer and red Autumn,
     And made the Winter beloved;
     She is dead, and these things come not again.


                           AZARIAH JOHN PUGH

One of the most inspiriting of our fire-siders at the farmhouse is a
young schoolmaster named Azariah John Pugh, and called, in the Welsh
fashion, almost invariably, Azariah John.

He is mainly English and partly Spanish; he was born in England, but
having a Welsh name, he boasts much of his country, as he has elected to
call Wales. But in truth he belongs to no time or place. He cares
nothing for the house he lives in, for the village, or for any place he
ever saw. Yet are we never tired of hearing his rich sentiments about
them all. If only he be far away from it, there is no place known to him
which he will not magnify with words which others do not easily use even
for their true loves. Probably he would like to like them; but that very
liking seems to be due to his feverish wide reading in books that are
full of sentiments he admires and would borrow, if he could. Thus, of
old cities, rivers flowing past famous places, mountains of beauty or
story, the white cliffs of the south, the whin-red moorland of Wales,
old gardens, solemn woods, all solitudes, fading races, sunsets, fallen
greatness in men and things, old books, old beer, poverty, childhood ...
of all these he will talk as if he had discovered them to the world,
though it may be doubted whether he knows them at all. Yet is he a
magnificent echo of the genuine lovers of these things, and he is so
sorrowfully anxious to be believed that to some of us he has seemed to
be the true heir, though defrauded of his inheritance, of all beauty and
all antiquity. He is for ever speaking of "remembering afresh and with
pleasure ancient matters," though he knows that even he cannot remember
them with pleasure, and that no experienced man ever does so. He is so
young that he has nothing to forget. But in his own esteem he is old
now, and shakes his head over the light-heartedness of old men, saying,
"If they were as old as I am——"

He speaks so suavely that the plain man wonders that he has never felt
as deeply himself. Before his patriotism, the patriot is abashed. The
lover of the quiet life, in his presence, is persuaded that himself can
hardly be said to love it. No lover repeats more fondly—


             And I would send tales of forgotten love
             Late into the lone night, and sing wild songs
             Of maids deserted in the olden time.

He thus deceives every one but himself, and that one exception is the
real cause of his unhappiness. He cannot avoid his affectations. He only
finds them out when they are full-grown and most noisily and hungrily
abroad in every man's ears, and then he has to maintain them, wearily
but with an apparent gaiety. Pity even will not hurt him. It is his
genial air: he rejoices in it as a pigeon, leaning and raising her wing
to expose her tender side, rejoices in summer rain, and as languidly;
and then again he is furious at it, and cultivates brutality, drinks
much beer, and uses many oaths, of which he wearies and comes again to
the old tap.

The ghosts of the subtle emotions which we say make up modernity have
come into his brain, and they are so many that he has become, if not a
theatre, at least a mortuary, of modernity. But the nervous strain of
any real passion in his neighbourhood obliges him to be rude or to run
away. Real passion was always scandalously ill done: he would have no
lover die less romantically than Romeo.

And as his thoughts, so are his acts, except that they are few. He has
been to Rome, the Bay of Spezzia, Windermere; he has walked along the
Pilgrim's Road to Canterbury. He has learned to work badly in metal and
wood. He has had whims and drugs enough to win an appreciation from Mr.
Arthur Symons. He has written poems under the influence of something in
his stomach; but either he cannot read them, or they are not fit to be
read. He wrote one, I remember, about a girl who worked a story in
tapestry while her lover played on a harp the melody which told the same
story. He wrote a sermon on the death of John Jones because a hundred
persons of that name die every day, and he wished to praise the average
man, out of a whimsical distaste for his late less fantastic likings. He
has had friends and has been left by them; or, as he says, after the
Welsh poet,

 The brave, the magnanimous, the amiable, the generous, and the energetic
 Are as stepping-stones to the bard.

He has made love, and he has been scorned; the sad tunes of

                       Old unhappy far off-things
                       And battles long ago


are accordingly most dear to him, and in his gayest moments he will
murmur some sad melody like "The Marsh of Rhuddlan" or "My Johnny was a
shoemaker." I have heard him repeat this strange poem of Taliesin's as
if he were a reincarnation of the bard:

       Primary chief bard am I to Elphin,
       And my original country is the region of the summer stars;
       Idno and Heinin called me Merddin,
       At length every King will call me Taliesin.
       I was with my Lord in the highest sphere,
       On the fall of Lucifer into the depth of hell;
       I have borne a banner before Alexander;
       I know the names of the stars from north to south....
       I have been with my Lord in the manger of the ass;
       I strengthened Moses through the water of Jordan;
       I have been in the firmament with Mary Magdalene;
       I have obtained the muse from the cauldron of Ceridwen;
       I have been bard of the harp to Lleon of Lochlin;
       I have been on the White Hill, in the court of Cynvelyn;
       For a day and a year in stocks and fetters,
       I have suffered hunger for the Son of the Virgin.
       I have been fostered in the land of the Deity,
       I have been teacher to all intelligences,
       I am able to instruct the whole universe,
       I shall be until the day of doom on the face of the earth:
       And it is not known whether my body is flesh or fish....

And it falls strangely from this wandering voice that calls itself a
man. It is comic and it is terrible. He alone seems to feel the true
sadness of them: flatterers and low comic persons tell him that he is
but a vessel come into the world to be filled with all the sorrows that
have been. Truly, all that has passed, is.

Nevertheless, we love him for his gross natural self, for so we think
his only convincing affectation, the only one which he displays with
some consistency by the fireside; and we know, as the world does not
know, how costly and passionate affectations are.

                         MORGAN RHYS AND OTHERS

I should like to win some charity for Morgan Rhys, the descendant of a
prince, a bard and a tin-plater. Charity it must be; for, in truth, he
is something of a Celt in the bad, fashionable sense of that strange
word, and is somewhat ridiculous beside the landlord of the "Cross Inn."
An orphan, he lived as the only child in the large house of a distant
relative, reading everything, playing half-heartedly at games, yet now
and then entering into them with such enthusiasm that he did what he
liked and won a singular reputation. He went seldom to a chapel, and
when he went, did something more than escape boredom, by the marvellous
gift of inattention which enabled him to continue his own chain of
thought or fancy from beginning to end of the service. He was quite
unhindered by hymn, prayer, or sermon, and accepted what he heard, as
elderly persons accept fairies, without even curiosity. The death of
others made him helpless for a time, but he did not reason about the
fact: his own death he at all times contemplated without fear; what he
feared, if anything, was the fear of death.

These things would not be remarkable, if he had not been at the same
time an impressionable, submissive child, incapable of listening to
argument, indeed, but of an unsatisfied sentimentality that might have
been made much use of by a priest. His abstraction from things to which
he was indifferent was wonderful. He was delighted and fascinated by
abstraction itself, and finding a thing uninteresting, he could at once
withdraw into a sweet, vaporous, empty cave. Thus, he was praised at
school for his calmness during punishment, which, he says, on many
occasions he never felt at all.

When a child of five he had been left alone for half a day in a remote
chamber of a great house, and at nightfall was found sitting at a window
that commanded an orchard and a lawn, and when he did not rise to greet
his friends, and was questioned, merely said "Look!" Nobody could see
anything, or rather, they saw everything as usual: nor could he explain.
He always remembered the incident, and could not explain it. There was
no fairy, no peculiar light or gloom. Yet he admitted that he was
intoxicated by the mere trees and the green lawn. In the same way he was
often found listening to silence. He did not pretend to hear strange
music. It was the voluptuousness of sheer silence. At home, in the
fields, at school, he would cry: "There!" So far as any one could see,
there was nothing. To shut his eyes was not to see amply and clearly,
but to see infinite purple darkness, which he vastly loved. He would ask
friends whether they remembered this place or that on a certain day, and
if they did, could never have them share his pleasure at the
recollection; and for this whim he was scolded and ridiculed.


But at the age of sixteen or seventeen, poetry gave him a second world
in which he thenceforward moved with a rapture which I do not often
observe in the religious, while in religious matters he remains so pure
a sceptic that he has never yet learned that there is anything about
which to be sceptical. This so-called matter-of-factness in combination
with a rich imaginativeness is perhaps a Welsh characteristic. I
remember a farmer in Cardiganshire, with the blood of a lamb on his
wrist, singing a fine hymn very nobly; and though I cannot like such a
mystic, I admire him. In the same way will Rhys turn from ribaldry to a
poem by Mr. Yeats. But he valued poetry not so much because it was full
of music for ear and spirit, though that he loved; not so much because
it was the first discoverer of Nature and Man, though that he well knew,
as because it revealed to him the possibility of a state of mind and
spirit in which alone all things could be fully known at their highest
power, and that state was his most cherished aim, and poetry helped him
to achieve it. Along with love of poetry went a curious study of
appearances and illusions. He was never tired of considering them; of
trying to elucidate the impressionism of the eyes and the other senses;
of trying to know what there was in tree or face or flower which many
measurements, scientific descriptions, photographs, and even pictures
did not exhaust. So many trees he saw were scarcely more than nothing,
though close by and in clear air: what were they, he asked. He had never
any answer. "If only we could think like that!" he said once, pointing
to a fair, straight hawthorn that stood, with few branches and without
leaves, on the mountain side. And he came to hope for a state in which
he and the trees and the great estuary near his house, the flowers, the
distant white cottages, should become all happily arranged in as perfect
a pattern as that made with iron dust by a magnet—all filling their
places, all integral parts of a whole, and important because they were.


One evening he came into the farmhouse in deep excitement because (as he
said) he had been part of the music of the spheres. He had walked
through village after village, over the mountains and along the rivers,
under great motionless white clouds. The air had been so clear that
every straw of the thatch gleamed separately. He had passed through the
lonely places with a sense of passing through a crowd because the rich
spring air had been so much a presence. The men labouring or idling in
the fields had seemed to be seraphic and majestic beings; the women
smiling or talking by the gates were solemn and splendid. When at last
he descended into this valley, he saw the wood smoke rising gently and
blue from all the houses, as if they had been a peaceful company smoking
pipes together. He had looked at the sky, the flushed mountain sheep,
the little stony lanes that led steeply up to farmyard and farm, the
jackdaw making suitable music high up in the cold bright air, the
buzzard swirling amidst the young bracken, and he had approved, and had
been approved, in ecstasy. And on that day the mazes of human activity
had been woven into a rich pattern with the clouds and the hills and the
waters for the pleasure of the gods, and were certainly for once fitted
to the beauty and harmony of the universe. Thus he spoke in
ejaculations, to our great joy, though not without giving us a fear that
he would spoil it by something inapposite. But merely remarking that he
had seen the parson feeding his boar and that the harmony between them
also was complete, he became silent, and for a time the whole world
shimmered and darkened as if it had been some tapestry which Rhys had
made. The most pious member of the party, a Christian if ever there was
one, remarked that he "wished he had felt like that sometimes." To which
Rhys replied that he could not possibly wish that, as he would then be
damned like himself: and the other agreed.

On days like this, he stepped over the edge of the world and saw the
gods leaning from the stars among the clouds, and perhaps the loneliness
that followed appalled him. For these days flew fast. And so he tried to
fortify himself by mingling warmly with the life of every day in the
village, where his reputation was for generosity, hard drinking, and
perfect latitude of speech. He stimulated the trade-unionist, the
parson, the minister, the bard. But he could not live both lives. The
worldly one was the more difficult and he gave it up, and only made
spasmodic and gross attempts to return to it. He began to shrink not
only from all men but from all outward experience, and to live, as only
too easily he could, upon his own fantasy. He was "surprised" when he
saw men in the street. A million people, all different and their
differences so much the more difficult because they were not
acknowledged, frightened him. So his advocacy of certain humane measures
and his support of some enthusiasms sounded as if they came from an
angel, a fiend, or a corpse. As will happen with men who love life too
passionately, he was often in love with death. He found enjoyment in
silence, in darkness, in refraining from deeds, and he longed even to
embrace the absolute blank or death, if only he could be just conscious
of it; and he envied the solitary tree on a bare plain high up among the
hills, under a night sky in winter where the only touch of life and
pleasure was the rain. And now, with his fantastic belief that the
corpse is life's handiwork and its utmost end, he is humanised only by a
dread of the blank to which he is going:

                     When we shall hear
             The rain and wind beat dark December, how,
             In that our pinching cave, shall we discourse
             The freezing hours away?

He has made a heaven and he fears it.

Once there came to him and to the farmhouse a ghost from the north. He
was a tall, black-haired, white-faced man, with high curved brow,
straight fleshy nose, perfect firm lips, and bony chin. Was he soldier
or scholar or priest? asked one and another. His face was vigilant, of
childlike freedom of expression, and yet of boundless mystery in repose.
When he spoke, he had fire, dignity, rapidity, ease, fertility of ideas,
and everything of the orator except that his speech was simple. He could
move a Welsh multitude with politics as a wind moves the corn, yet he
did so but once, because "it was a blackguard game." Distinguished from
the rest only by his white tie, in the pulpit he looked a Loyola and was
a Chrysostom; yet he stood there but once or twice, to bury a noble man.
He was master of an English style that was like Newman's in simplicity,
music, and weight, yet published but one pamphlet that was wrung from
him by a needy cause in a week, and never did anything to disabuse a
public that praised him for it. His handwriting, in any haste, was that
of a leisured and proud monk. His deep voice had a kind of flame-like
hum of passion in it; he always used it in the service of the beautiful
and the true. I heard him laugh only once, and then the depth which he
discovered for a moment disturbed me so that I distrusted all laughter
afterwards: it was like a nymph emerging from a deep cave. In scorn, in
ignorance, in mere contentedness, he never uttered a word. He is content
to be the light and the rest of a few scholars and a hundred miners, and
to be the faithful, unhonoured Levite of the mighty dead, of whom not
one, or prince or bard, had a virtue which he has not, except it were a
strong right arm and the will to make a war in which to use it for the
service of the liberty and integrity of Wales, for these alone of mortal
things he passionately loves.


Lastly, there is at the farmhouse still a memory of that poet, great
discoverer of manuscripts and splendid human being—Iolo Morganwg—also
herbalist, lover of liberty and of the Revolution in France, a mighty
walker, who would ride in no man's coach, and having been given a horse,
drove it before him for a long way, and complained that a horse was
wearisome. He learned his alphabet from the tombstones which his father
made. In his youth, in the middle of the eighteenth century, he thought
of going to America to search for the Welsh colony left five hundred
years before by Madoc ap Owen Gwynedd, whom Southey strove to sing. He
was stone-mason, bookseller, land-surveyor and (in slave-owning days)
seller of sugar "uncontaminated by human gore." Eighty years ago he was
to be seen "on the highways and byways of Glamorgan—an elderly
pedestrian of rather low stature, wearing his long grey hair flowing
over his high coat-collar, which by constant antagonism had pushed up
his hat brim into a quaint angle of elevation behind. His countenance
was marked by a combination of quiet intelligence and quick
sensitiveness; the features angular, the lines deep, and the grey eye
benevolent but highly excitable. He was clad in rustic garb: the coat
blue, with goodly brass buttons, and the nether integument good homely
corduroy. He wore buckles in his shoes, and a pair of remarkably stout
well-set legs were vouchers for the great peripatetic powers he was well
known to possess. A pair of canvas wallets were slung over his
shoulders, one depending in front, the other behind. These contained a
change of linen and a few books and papers connected with his favourite
pursuits" (the study and collection of old Welsh manuscriptions for the
illustration of Welsh history). "He generally read as he walked, 'with
spectacles on nose,' and a pencil in his hand serving him to make notes
as they suggested themselves. A tall staff, which he grasped at about
the level of his ear, completed his travelling equipment." And in this
chair, they say, he spent a night, sleeping and reading alternately.

Outside, by the window, is the village idiot, with a smile like the
sound of bells ascending from a city buried in the sea.

                               CHAPTER V
                          WALES MONTH BY MONTH



The road ran for ten miles between mountains on which the woods of oak
and fir moaned, though there was little wind. A raven croaked with a fat
voice. I could hear a score of streams. But the valley would not speak
with me. The sole joy in it was that of walking fast and of seeing the
summits of the hills continually writing a wild legend on the cloudy
sky. The road curved and let in the poor sunlight from the south-west;
and there were interminable oak woods ahead,—one moan and one dull

But, suddenly, a space of the south-west sky was silver white. The sun
was almost visible, and, suddenly, a company of oak trees caught the
light and shone, and became warm and glorious, but misty and
impenetrable with light. They dreamed of summers to come and summers
past. For one moment they were as fine and strange and chosen from all
the rest, as things discovered by a lantern on a country road at night.
Not only were they impenetrable to the sight, but it was impossible to
suppose oneself amongst them. They were holding festival, but not for
me. They were populous, but not with men. They were warm and welcoming,
and something was happy there. They were as a large, distant, and
luminous house seen in a cold and windy night by some one hungry, poor,
timid, and old, upon a lonely road, envying it with an insatiable envy
that never dreams of satisfying itself.

But, in a moment, a mist arose from the grass between the oaks and me:
the glory departed: and the little, draughty farmhouse was far more to
be desired than they, where a soft-voiced motherly girl of twenty gave
me cheese and bread and milk, and smiled gently at the folly of walking
on such a day.



All day I wandered over an immense, bare, snowy mountain which had
looked as round as a white summer cloud, but was truly so pitted and
scarred and shattered by beds of streams and valleys full of rotten oak
trees, that my course wound like a river's or like a mouse's in a dense
hedge. The streams were small, and, partly frozen, partly covered up by
snow, they made no noise. Nothing made any noise. There was a
chimney-stack clearly visible ten miles away, and I wished that I could
hear the factory hiss and groan. No wind stirred among the trees. Once a
kite flew over among the clouds of the colour of young swan's plumage,
but silently, silently. I passed the remains of twelve ancient oaks,
like the litter of some uncouth, vast monster pasturing, but without a

The ruins of a farm lay at the edge of one valley: snow choked the
chimney and protected the hearth, which was black with flames long dead,
and as cold as a cinerary urn of the bronze age. I stumbled over
something snowy near by, and exposed the brown fragments of a plough,
and farther on, a heavy wheel standing askew on its crumbling axle.

The trees below were naked on one side of their boles, but above was the
snow, like a stiff upright mane on every branch, which seemed to have
forced them into their wild and painful curves. All the fallen rotten
wood broke under my foot without a sound, and the green things disclosed
were as some stupid, cheerful thing in a house of tremendous woe.

It was impossible to think of the inn to which I was going, and hardly
of the one which I had left. How could their fires have survived the
all-pervading silent snow? When one is comfortable, near a fire or
within reach of one, and in company, winter is thought of as a time of
activity, of glowing faces, of elements despised, and even a poetry book
brings back the spring: one will run, or eat chestnuts, or read a book,
or look at a picture to-morrow, and so the winter flies. But on the
mountain there was no activity; it was impertinent: there was the snow.
When I could remember anything it was these verses, which were the one
survival from the world I had known before I began to cross this
immense, bare, snowy mountain:

                The beams flash on
          And make appear the melancholy ruins
          Of cancelled cycles; anchors, beaks of ships;
          Planks turned to marble; quivers, helms and spears,
          And gorgon-headed targes, and the wheels
          Of scythéd chariots, and the emblazonry
          Of trophies, standards, and armorial beasts,
          Round which death laughed, sepulchred emblems
          Of dead destruction, ruin within ruin!
          The wrecks beside of many a city vast,
          Whose population which the earth grew over
          Was mortal, but not human; see, they lie,
          Their monstrous works, and uncouth skeletons,
          Their statues, homes and fanes; prodigious shapes
          Huddled in grey annihilation, split,
          Jammed in the hard, black deep; and over these,
          The anatomies of unknown winged things,
          And fishes which were isles of living scale,
          And serpents, bony chains, twisted around
          The iron crags, or within heaps of dust
          To which the tortuous strength of their last pangs
          Had crushed the iron crags; and over these
          The jagged alligator, and the might
          Of earth-convulsing behemoth, which once
          Were monarch beasts, and on the slimy shores,
          And weed-overgrown continents of earth,
          Increased and multiplied like summer worms
          On an abandoned corpse, till the blue globe
          Wrapped deluge round it like a cloke, and they
          Yelled, gasped, and were abolished; or some God
          Whose throne was in a comet, passed, and cried
          Be not!

They lay beneath; the snow was over them. It was hard to walk while all
things had thus, in Asiatic phrase, perfected their repose. When the
distant chimney appeared again, it was as incredible as a thing seen in
a dream when one knows that it is a dream. It interrupted the perfection
of the whole, as I did, but only as the smell of a mouse may spoil the
beauty of an old room which has been left for a dead man alone, for some
time after the funeral. The farther I went, the more immense became the
extent of hills ahead and around. Their whiteness made the sky gloomy,
as if with coming night. The furthest were grey with distance. In the
cold that overtook my swiftest walking I could not put by the
imagination that I could see myself travelling over more endless white
hills, lost, to my own knowledge, and yet beyond my own power to save.
And, again, I thought of all the hills beyond those I saw, until even
the immensity before me became more awful, because it suggested the
whole, as the light of one candle by the organist suggests the whole
cathedral at midnight.

And then, though I did not know it, a change began, and dimly, not
hopefully, as when one thinks one hears the double click of a latch in a
house which strangers inhabit now, I saw that the sun began to set, and
it was red. I knew that red: it belonged to the old world: it was the
colour of the oast houses in Kent. A window, two miles off, caught the
light and blazed. A bell told the hour in a church, and shook some of
the snow from the belfry in a mist. I warmed myself in the breath of a
flock of sheep. I knew that I heard the voice of a stream which had been
with me for a long way. Borrow, I remembered, knew the stream. Borrow! I
was at home again.


Slowly the fire and the ale constructed the world again, and though I
could still see the snow from the hearth of the inn, it was as impotent
as the frail moon which was convoyed down among the moorlands by dark
and angry clouds, while I read—as now my reader does—this passage from
_Wild Wales_:—

"'I suppose you follow some pursuit besides bardism?' said I; 'I suppose
you farm?'

"'I do not farm,' said the man in grey. 'I keep an inn.'

"'Keep an inn?' said I.

"'Yes,' said the man in grey. 'The —— Arms at L——.'

"'Sure,' said I, 'inn-keeping and bardism are not very cognate

"'You are wrong,' said the man in grey; 'I believe the _awen_, or
inspiration, is quite as much at home at the bar as in the barn, perhaps
more. It is that belief which makes me tolerably satisfied with my
position and prevents me from asking Sir Richard to give me a farm
instead of an inn.'

"'I suppose,' said I, 'that Sir Richard is your landlord?'

"'He is,' said the man in grey, 'and a right noble landlord too.'

"'I suppose,' said I, 'that he is right proud of his tenant?'

"'He is,' said the man in grey, 'and I am right proud of my landlord,
and will here drink his health. I have often said that if I were not
what I am, I should wish to be Sir Richard.'

"'You consider yourself his superior?' said I.

[Illustration: SNOWDON FROM CWM-Y-GLO]

"'Of course,' said the man in grey; 'a baronet is a baronet, but a bard
is a bard, you know. I never forget what I am, and the respect due to my
sublime calling. About a month ago I was seated in an upper apartment,
in a fit of rapture; there was a pen in my hand and paper before me on
the table, and likewise a jug of good ale, for I always find that the
_awen_ is most prodigal of her favours when a jug of good ale is before
me. All of a sudden my wife came running up and told me that Sir Richard
was below, and wanted to speak to me. "Tell him to walk up," said I.
"Are you mad?" said my wife. "Do you know who Sir Richard is?" "I do,"
said I; "a baronet is a baronet, but a bard is a bard. Tell him to walk
up." Well, my wife went and told Sir Richard that I was writing and
could not come down, and that she hoped he would not object to walk up.
"Certainly not, certainly not," said Sir Richard. "I shall be only too
happy to ascend to a genius on his hill. You may be proud of such a
husband, Mrs. W." And here it will be as well to tell you that my name
is W.—J. W. of ——. Sir Richard then came up, and I received him with
gravity and politeness. I did not rise, of course, for I never forget
myself a moment, but I told him to sit down, and added, that after I had
finished the _pennill_ (song for the harp) I was engaged upon, I would
speak to him. Well, Sir Richard smiled and sat down, and begged me not
to hurry myself, for that he could wait. So I finished the _pennill_,
deliberately, mind you, for I did not forget who I was, and then turning
to Sir Richard, entered upon business with him.'

"'I suppose Sir Richard is a very good-tempered man?' said I.

"'I don't know,' said the man in grey. 'I have seen Sir Richard in a
devil of a passion, but never with me. No, no! trust Sir Richard for not
riding the high horse with me. A baronet is a baronet, but a bard is a
bard, and that Sir Richard knows.'"

The which Borrovianism should as much delight my hard-working reader as
it did me, on that January night: may it console him also.



I passed through a village where I found that the old-fashioned bidding
marriage was not dead. For a printed sheet with this announcement (in
Welsh) fell into my hands:

                     A BIDDING TO A MARRIAGE

                 Inasmuch as we intend entering the
                 state of wedlock on ——, we invite
                 wedding gifts, which will be repaid
                 with thanks on a like occasion.
                           T. Williams.
                           Elizabeth Jones.
                 It is expected that gifts due to them,
                 and to their parents and brothers,
                 will be paid on the wedding day.


The custom was old; the village was new, and it stood on the edge of a
strange new land. Having passed it, the road dipped among sublime black
hills of refuse from furnace and pit. The streams were rich with yellow
water, purple water. Here and there were dim, shining, poisonous heaps
of green and blue, like precious stones. There were railway lines
everywhere, and on them trucks, full of scraps of metal, like sheaves of
scimitars and other cruel weapons—still cruel, but hacked, often rusty,
and expressing something more horrible than mere sharpness and ferocity.
There were furnaces, crimson and gold; and beyond all, a white-clouded
sky which said that it was over the sea.

In the early afternoon a grey mist invested all things, so that even
when I was close to them, they seemed about to pass away, and I was
tempted to walk regardless and straight ahead as the harper did in the

It is told that a harper was asked to play and sing at a wedding. It was
a fine day, and on his way he sometimes played over the melodies he most
liked; and as he went, the fairies followed him, their little feet going
fast and sharp like drumsticks. When he reached the house, the fairies
were still behind him. They followed him in, and presently, since he
again tuned his harp, the company began to dance, and the fairies with
them; the house, which was a little one, did not impede them; and in no
long time they all went dancing out of the house. The fairies, it is
said, were not to be distinguished from the bridal party. They went on
across well-known country, regardless and straight ahead, through a barn
where men were threshing, through a hall where men were dining. Coming
at last to a place he did not know, the harper ceased and became
separated from the rest, and slept. When he awoke, he found himself in a
pleasant place among very little people, and all that was asked of him
was that he should play on the harp every night. Then one day he got
leave to go out of the land of the fairies; but he left his harp there
and could never get back again. He found that the others had returned.
He could say nothing of the wedding day, except that he had never before
harped so well.

And well did the mist harp. It was the one real credible thing among
those furnaces, which were but as gaps in it, or as landscapes seen
rapidly from small windows in a lofty house upon a hill.



Next day I crossed the river. At first, the water seemed as calm and
still as ice. The boats at anchor, and doubled by shadow, were as if by
miracle suspended in the water. No ripple was to be seen, though now and
then one emitted a sudden transitory flame, reflected from the sun,
which dreamed half-way up the sky in a cocoon of cloud. No motion of the
tide was visible, though the shadows of the bridge that cleared the
river in three long leaps, trembled and were ever about to pass away.
The end of the last leap was unseen, for the further shore was lost in
mist, and a solitary gull spoke for the mist. A sombre, satanic family
of what had yesterday been the chimneys of factories rose out of the
mist,—belonging to a remote, unexplored, inaccessible country over
there, which seemed to threaten the river-side where I stood. But the
tide was rising, and the thin long wavering line of water grew up over
the mud, and died, and grew up again, curved like the grain of a
chestnut or mother-of-pearl, and fascinating, persuasive. And sometimes
the line of water resembled a lip, quivering with speech, and yet
silent, unheard. Two swans glimmered at the edge; and beneath them, in
the water, and beside them, on the polished mud, their white reflections

Suddenly the tantara of a trumpet stung me like an enormous invisible
wasp, and I looked down and saw a grey, drowned dog at my feet. His legs
lay in pairs; his head curved towards his fore-legs, his tail towards
his hind-legs. He was of the colour of the mud. But his very quietness
and powerlessness and abjectness, without any consideration of all the
play and strife and exercise that once led him step by step towards
death,—without a thought of the crimson tongue that once flickered,
after hunting or fighting, like a flame of pure abandoned vitality,—gave
me a strange suggestion of power and restraint, just as the misty land
over the water, without any consideration of all the men and machinery
that were visible there yesterday, suggested a life without those
things. The beast became a puissant part of the host of all the dead or
motionless or dreaming things, of statuary and trees and dead or
inefficient men, and was, with them, about to convince me of a state
quite other than ours, and not worse, when once again the trumpet
disturbed me and turned me to the thought that I was the supreme
life-giver to these things, that I gave them of myself, and that without
me they were nothing; and I feared that this fancied state was but
suggested by my envy of calm things, and that, though dreams may put the
uttermost parts of the earth into our possession, without the dream the
dreamer is nothing more than naught.


Thence I went to an irregular, squalid, hideous, ashen town,—a large
village, but noisy and without character, neither English nor Welsh. The
street songs were but a week or two behind those of London, and they
were not mixed with anything but an occasional Welsh hymn tune or
"Sospan bach." But there used to be an old house there that spoke of old
Wales, and I went to see it.

When I came to the edge of its garden I heard a blackbird sing, and in
the busy street how old and far away it sounded! as if it were true that
"thrice the age of a man is that of a stag, and thrice that of a stag is
that of the melodious blackbird."

Pretentious, unpicturesque, fatigued, and silent, the women walked to
and fro, between the shops. Now and then an unmarried girl laughed; the
others had no such energy.

It was more pleasant to be among the men, who were on the other side of
the road, many of them standing still, packed close in a half-moon
figure that swelled out over the pavement, and watching something. There
was nothing gorgeous or adventurous or even elegant in their scrupulous
dress; in the old faces either alcoholic or parched, in the waxen faces
of the younger; in the voices which seemed to have been copied from the
gramophone, their favourite instrument. I liked them for the complete
lack of self-consciousness which allowed them to expose quite fearlessly
their angular figures, their uninteresting clothes, their heartless,
rigid faces that retained smiles for an incredibly short time. They were
the equals, in everything but ease, of the labourers whom they were
watching. But when I saw at last what they were watching, I thought that
I could have rejoiced to have seen them, looking passionate for once, in

For, under the direction of a foreman, whose snub nose, bow legs, and
double collar made him a sublime and monstrous priest or chief of what
was most horrible among the men and women of the street, a band of
labourers, without pity, without even ferocity, but mechanically, was
demolishing "Quebec," a dignified mid-eighteenth-century house, where
for five generations a decent, stable professional family had lived,
loved beauty according to its lights, and been graceful in its leisure.
The very house had seemed to say, amid its troubled neighbours, as
Marlowe's Edward said,

                   This life contemplative is heaven.



Now it was falling in thunders and clouds of ruin; and I wondered that
the people did not fall upon the enormous, red-haired, passionless men
who wielded the pickaxes.

For twenty years I had known "Quebec" and had watched the streets
creeping upon it, until the house and great garden were surrounded and
spied upon by houses on all sides but one. That one side had been
protected by a lofty and massive wall, and through that the enemy had
now broken an entrance.

Behind that wall, the two Alderneys had grazed on three acres of meadow,
in the midst of which had been an old orchard, and in the midst of that
the gardens and the house. Once I had seen a girl with the delicate
Kentish rake gathering a little hay there. In one corner, too, had been
a tangle of elder and bramble, which (so we used to fancy) might
possibly have—by pure and unbroken descent, miraculously escaping all
change—the sap of Eden in their veins.

But the Alderneys were gone, and the meadow was slashed with ruts; the
trees were down; the air was foul with dust of mortar and brick and
plaster; and, mocking at the disembowelled house, new bricks,
scaffolding, and iron pillars and girders lay round about, among the
fallen clouds of ivy, which were torn and dead. Oh, Westminster,
Tintern, Godstow, Kidwelly, you have immortality, not indeed in your
forms, but in the hearts of men; but "Quebec" dies with me! So I thought
and wondered.

Hastily broken up, without a grave, without ceremonial, without a
becoming interval of desolation in which to spend its tears, and have at
least the pleasure of regret, the house, I knew, could not but send
forth piteous ghosts to wander up and down,—_inops, inhumataque
turba_,—and round their heads garlands of branches with those terrible
buds that were never to be leaves,—until their sorrows and ours were
smoothed by time or consumed by death. I met them afterwards in spring,
when the purple of the brambles should have been at last overcome by
green, and they seemed the sole inhabitants of the brand-new, crowded
streets, beneath which "Quebec" is buried.

[Illustration: IN THE LLEDR VALLEY]

Suddenly I met Philaster, who had years ago rung the great bell of the
house and become the angry coachman's willing captive, so that he might
see the house quite close, and the flowers and the grass. Between us we
made the power of the breaker and builder as naught. For a little while,
indeed, we asked, What would other children do who lived in that suburb,
and had no "Quebec" to provide a home for all their fancies,—to lend its
lawns for bright ladies and brave knights to walk upon,—its borders and
bowers to complete the scenery of Hans Andersen,—its grey walls to hide
beauty and cruelty, misers and witches, and children crying because of
wicked stepmothers? We had set out, as children, to live as if for
eternity. Now we would live as if for annihilation to-morrow. We would
no longer set our hearts upon anything which the world can destroy. We
would set our hearts upon things of the imagination—like "Quebec."

So we went up into an attic, and drew the curtains, and lit the fire,
and took draughts of long oblivion, and made our sorrows pompous by
reading Villon and Catullus and Du Bellay, and the close of _Paradise
Lost_, and the thirteenth book of the _Morte Darthur_, and Goethe's "Now
comes first love and friendship's company," and other things that
reminded us of decay and beauty; and not one of them but drew a long
echo from the hoary walls of "Quebec" (now safe within our brains). Yet
not one of these things, however splendid or tumultuous or tender, was
then too splendid or tumultuous or tender for our mood. Nor could one of
them stir us so potently as the picture that came often that evening to
our minds. Here was the gaudy, dismal, roaring street, its roar
sometimes settling into a kind of silence through which the heart longs
for voice of woman or bird to penetrate; and there, seen over the high
wall, was the old man who owned "Quebec," playing bowls with several
happy children in the twilight, and half-hidden by the dense border of
hollyhock, red-hot poker, blush roses, nasturtium, and sunflower; and
the house itself, looking more distant than it was, in that sweet light,
seemed to possess those calm, impregnable high places of the wise, than
which, says Lucretius, there is no possession more desirable.



Just before dawn, I came to a cleft high in the hills, so that I could
only see a little copse of oak and hazel, and in the dying moonlight a
thousand white islands of cloud and mountain

             Totus conlucens veste atque insignibus albis.

The night had gone, and the day had not come; and the little copse had
the serious, brooding air which all things have at that hour, and
especially when the land is tender with the first hope of spring and in
that reverie—

                              Cette rêverie
                          Que ne pense à rien.

For what I saw seemed but the fragments of something which night had
built for its own delight, and as they became clearer and clearer they
had more and more the appearance of being unbuilt and dissolved. But,
gradually, the birds were let out and they sang. Their songs, on the
wintry hill, which I had last visited in summer, broke upon the silence
as in summer they never do, like the opening of the door of a room that
is empty but has once been gay with fire and books and men; and sweet
though the blackbird was, and shrill the missel-thrush, their songs were
awful, and said that "a large part of the earth is still in the urn unto
us." The grass, which had truly been of no colour, though my urgent
memory persuaded me that it was green, began to awake to colour, and,
while in the shadow of the copse the dusk was impenetrable, the light
reached a knoll where there was dead bracken still. "Colour," said
Novalis, "is an effort of matter to become light," and for one moment
the grass upon that knoll ceased to strive and was light. A plover that
wheeled close by disappeared and was but a glow.

I went on, and on a lower slope the ploughman was beginning to plough in
the shadow. Grim and worthless looked the work, until I looked round and
saw the dawn that was being prepared. But I watched too carefully, for I
saw it all. Ever, as it grew, statelier and richer, I said to myself,
that in a little while it would be perfected: yet still I watched and I
began to think of those who saw it, as I had seen it before, from
windows of towns, as they rose for work, or as they douted the candles
and put away cards or books, and paused for perhaps a minute, and gazed
as they never gazed at human beauty, because, though they revered it,
they feared it also, and though they feared it they were fascinated. I
thought of those that leapt up at it; those that mourned because they
had seen it pass so often before into a common day; those that, on
inhospitable roads, saw it and neglected it, or cursed it after a night
in which they had drunk their last poor earnings altogether. If it would
but last ... I had been looking at it and had not seen it, and when I
dropped these thoughts I knew that it was gone, the slowly prepared and
solemn dawn which made the splendid spring of that year.

[Illustration: DUFFWS MOUNTAIN]


Then I took a path which led out of sight of the white crested mountain
and down among larches and oaks.

The wind was changing the grass from green to silver, and back again,
rhythmically. In the pallid herbage at the edge of the wood it produced
many little sounds, the combination of them barely louder than the sound
which fancy makes among tombs; and yet that little concert passed into
the ear and heart, giving a sympathy with the thousand minute sorrows of
the inanimate world and a feeling that is part of the melancholy so
importunately intruding on a spring day. But there, too, was trefoil,
delicatest herbage of the early year, with its trick of globing and
preserving rain upon its foliage, so that it is more delicate still in
the grey dawn. One stalk with all its leaf singularly fine and small had
grown out of a scar in a teazel stem.

So I came into a valley, and there was one white house in it, with a
green, glowing, and humming garden, and at the door a woman who might
have been the Old Year. It was one of those white houses so fair that in
the old time a poet compared a girl's complexion with them, as with
lilies and foam. It held all the sun, so that suddenly I knew that in
another valley, farther south and farther east, the rooks were making
the lanes sleepy with their busy talk; the kingfishers were in pairs on
the brooks, whose gentle water was waving and combing the hair of the
river moss; the gold of the willow catkin was darkened by bees; over an
old root of dock was a heaving colony of gleaming ants; perhaps the
chiffchaff had come to the larches and the little green moschatel was in
flower with large primroses among the ash stoles in wet woods; and in
the splendid moments of the day the poplars seemed to come into the
world, suddenly, all purple....

Yet here there was no rich high-hedged lane, no poplar, no noise of
rooks, but only a desolate brown moorland crossed by deep swift brooks
through which the one footpath ran, and this white house, like a flower
on a grave, recalling these memories of other valleys; so that I forgot
that near by the birches stood each in a basin of foam from the dripping
of mist and rain, and that I had not yet seen a thrush's nest in any
hawthorn on those hills. Therefore, I counted that house as lucky for me
as the Welshman's hazel-stick in the tale that is told in Iolo
Morganwg's life.


This is the tale.

A Welshman, with a fine hazel-stick in his hand, was once stopped on
London Bridge by an Englishman, who asked whence he came. "From my own
country," said the Welshman churlishly. "Do not take it amiss," said the
Englishman; "and if you will tell me what I ask, and take my advice, it
will be much for your good. Under the roots of the tree from which came
your stick, there are great treasures of gold and silver; if you can
remember the place, and will take me to it, I will make the treasure

Now knowing that the fellow was a magician, the Welshman, though at
first unwilling to be a party in this strange thing, at length agreed,
and went with him to Craig-y-Dinas and showed him the hazel-tree. They
dug out the root and found a broad flat stone underneath, which covered
the entrance to a cave. They went in, the magician warning the Welshman
lest he should touch a bell that hung in the middle of their path. At
the spacious further end of the cave, they saw many warriors lying
asleep in a circle, with bright armour on, and weapons ready at hand.
One of the warriors, refulgent above all the rest, had a jewelled and
golden crown along with the shield and battle-axe at his side.

At the feet of the warriors, in the middle of the circle, they saw two
immense heaps, the one of gold, the other of silver, and the magician
told the Welshman that he might take away as much as he could carry from
either of the heaps. So he took much gold. The magician took nothing. On
their way out of the cave he again warned the Welshman lest he should
touch the bell. But should he touch it, said the magician, some of the
warriors would surely awake and ask "if it was yet day": to which he
must at once answer: "No, sleep thou on," whereupon the warriors would
sleep again. And this the Welshman found to be truth when he staggered
under his gold and grazed the bell; but remembering the other's words,
he said: "Sleep thou on" when the warriors asked if it were day; and
they slept.

When they had left the cave, and closed the entrance, the magician told
the Welshman that he might return to the cave whenever he wished; that
the warriors were the knights of King Arthur, and the warrior with the
jewelled and golden crown was King Arthur; that they were awaiting the
day when the Black Eagle and the Golden Eagle should go to war; for on
that day the trembling earth would toll the bell, and at that sound the
king and the knights of the king would awake, take their weapons,
overthrow the Saxon, recover the island of Britain, and again establish
their king at Caerlleon, in justice and in peace and for ever. But the
Welshman spent his gold. He went again to the cave; he overloaded his
back with gold; he stumbled and the bell rang; he forgot the password.
And the knights rose and leaned upon their elbows, and one of them stood
up and took away his gold and beat him and thrust him out and closed the
mouth of the cave; and though he and many others made all the hill sore
with their digging, the cave was not found again.



For half a day there was now a world of snow, a myriad flakes falling, a
myriad rising, and nothing more save the sound of rivers; and now a
world of green undulating hills that smiled in the lap of the grey
mountains, over which moved large clouds, sometimes tumultuous and grey,
sometimes white and slow, but always fringed with fire. When the snow
came, the mountains dissolved and were not. When the mountains were born
again out of the snow, the snow seemed but to have polished the grass,
and put a sharper sweetness in the song of the thrush and the call of
the curlew, and left the thinnest of cirrus clouds upon the bare field,
where it clung only to the weeds. So, in this dialogue of mountain and
snow, nothing was easily remembered or even credible, until I came to
the foot of a hill which hazels and oak trees crowned. The snow was
disappearing and the light came precipitately through it and struck the
hill. All the olive and silver and leaden stems of oak and hazel glowed
together and made a warm haze and changed the hill into an early sunset
cloud out of which came the cooing of wood-pigeons. The mountains lay
round, grey, faint, unimportant, about to pass away; the country that
lay between them and the hill was still in mist. So the hill rose up
crowned and garlanded like a statue in a great hall of some fair woman
of whom one wonders what art can persuade her to stay on that cold
pedestal for ever. The wood-pigeons cooed continually; and there was the
hill, using all the sunlight, as a chrysanthemum will do in a London
street. It lived; it appealed to all the sense and brain together; it
was splendid; it was Spring's, and I do not know of anything else that
mattered or was, for the time. Very sweet it was to see the world as but
a shining green hill and a shining brown wood, with a wood-pigeon for a
voice, while all other things that had been were gone like the snow.
That there was also a wind I knew only because it brought with it the
scent of a farmyard behind: for it had motion but no sound. Something in
me was content to see the hill as a monument of Spring that might endure
for ever, that the wood-pigeons might coo their song; and saw that it
made possible the sound of bells in an evening landscape, of wheat in
sheaves, and quiet beeches and doves among them. Yet I climbed to the
wood, and saw that last year's leaves were too thick yet for a flower to
pierce them; and that same wind had found a brittle, dead ash-tree in
which to sing a cold November song; and the pigeons clapped their wings
and flew away. And that cold November song made me remember against
myself the old legend of the child who played with fairies, but came
once with her mother and saw them no more.


There were, says the story, at a small harbour belonging to Nefyn, some
houses in which several families formerly lived; the houses are there
still, but nobody lives in them now. There was one family there to which
a little girl belonged; they used to lose her for hours every day; so
her mother was very angry with her for being so much away. "I must
know," said she, "where you go for your play." The girl answered that it
was to Pin-y-Wig, "The Wig point," which means a place to the west of
the Nefyn headland; it was there, she said, she played with many
children. "They are very nice children,—much nicer," said the child,
"than I am." "I must know whose children they are," was the reply; and
one day the mother went with her little girl to see the children. It was
a distance of about a quarter of a mile to Pin-y-Wig, and after climbing
the slope and walking a little along the top they came in sight of the
Pin. It is from this Pin that the people of Pen-yr-Allt got water, and
it is from there they get it still. Now after coming near the Pin the
little girl raised her hands with joy at the sight of the children. "Oh,
mother," said she, "their father is with them to-day; he is not with
them always; it is only sometimes that he is." The mother asked the
child where she saw them. "There they are, mother, running down to the
Pin, with their father sitting down." "I see nobody, my child," was the
reply, and great fear came upon the mother; she took hold of the child's
hand in terror, and it came to her mind at once that they were the
_Tylwyth Teg_. Never afterwards was the little girl allowed to go to
Pin-y-Wig: the mother had heard that the Tylwyth Teg exchanged people's
children with their own.

[Illustration: ABERGLASLYN]


Yesterday, the flower of the wood-sorrel and the song of the willow-wren
came together into the oak woods, and higher up on the mountain, though
they were still grey, the larches were misty and it was clearly known
that soon they would be green. The air was full of the bleating of
lambs, and though there was a corpse here and there, so fresh and
blameless was it that it hardly spoiled the day. The night was one of
calm and breathing darkness; nor was there any moon; and therefore the
sorrowful darkness and angularity of early spring valleys by moonlight,
when they have no masses of foliage to make use of the beams, did not
exist. It was dark and warm, and from the invisible orchard, where snow
yet lay under the stone wall, came a fragrance which, though it was not
May, brought into our minds the song that was made for May in another
orchard high among hills:

        Have you ne'er waked in the grey of the day-dawn
        Whitely to stand at the window scarce seen,
        Over the garden to peer in the May-dawn
        Past to the fruit-close whose pale boughs not green
        Slowly reveal a fresh faintness a-flutter
        White to the young grass and pink to the sky?
        O, then a low call to waking we utter:
        "Bluth, lasses, apple-bluth spirts low and high."

        Out, lasses, out, to the apple-garth hasten—
        Nay, never tarry to net your glad hair—
        Here are no lovers your kissed shoes to fasten
        (O, for the days when girls' feet may go bare).
        O'er the dim lawn the may-rime yet lingers,
        Pallid and dark as the down of the dawn—
        Gather your skirts in your delicate fingers,
        Stoop as you run o'er the almond-hung lawn.

        Look through the trees ere dawn's twilight is over—
        Lo, how the light boughs seem lost in the stars;
        Everywhere bluth the grey sky seems to cover
        Quivering and scented, new spring's kisses' scars.
        Wet are the blossoms to wash your faint faces—
        Bury your faces cheek-deep in their chill;
        Press the flushed petals and open your dresses—
        So—let them trickle your young breasts to thrill.

        Winter has wronged us of sunlight and sweetness,
        We who so soon must be hid from the sun;
        Winter is on us as summer's completeness
        Faint-hearted drops down a tired world undone;
        Brief is the bloom-time as sleepy maids' laughter
        Who know not one bed-time 'tis summer's last day.
        Though from the heart of the rose they have quaffed her.
        Come, lasses, come, ere our rose world falls grey.

We had talked long into the night, and then as sleep came, out of this
darkness peered the early timorous warble of a blackbird, and gradually
all the birds in orchard, hedge, and wood made a thick mist or curtain
of innumerable and indistinguishable notes through which still crept the
bolder note of that same nearest blackbird. As the night lost its
heaviness, though not its stillness, the continuous mist of songs grew
thicker and seemed to produce or to be one with the faint darkness which
so soon was to be light. It seemed also to be making the landscape which
I saw being made, when I looked out. There, was the side of the hill;
there the larches, the dark hedges, and the lingering snow and the
orchard: they were what I had seen before, but changed and increased;
and very subtle, plaintive, menacing, vast, was the work, though when
the light had fully come, once more the larches, the hedges, and the
orchard were as if they had never been sung to a new order of beauty by
the mist of songs, and yet not the same, any more than a full coffin is
the same as the lips and eyes and hands and hair, of which it contains
all that we did not love. And still there were many songs; but you could
tell who sung each of them, if you wished.


At the end of the month, when already the cuckoo had come and the
blackthorn flowers among hawthorn branches were deceiving those who
desired May, I went again to the hill where the wood-pigeons had cooed.
I sat in a room in sight of it, during a cloud-gathering sunset. The
white houses, which had earlier been like remnants of winter snow, were
now like flowers. They and the misty larches and the birches gave a
nuptial splendour to the old hills. Once more the land stood in
preparation, as it stands year after year, so that one might think it
expected a new dynasty of gods to come on May day, as often happened in
the old time. And in the oaks and hazels the wood-pigeons cooed again.
But when the sunset was perfect, they ceased as if they also feared and
loved the white and green lines of cloud that lay over the hills—of a
white and green which I had only seen together before in a crimpled,
tender cabbage cut in two and lying half in bright water for the cook.
Then the silence grew and grew, exciting and paining and pleasing and
never satisfying the ear; so that I knew not whether the silence or the
speech that preceded it was the more mysterious. For him that has ears
there is nothing more expressive than speech; but it is never
unequivocal as silence is. The two are perhaps handmaidens to one
another and inseparable parts in the universal harmony, although
Maeterlinck says that a silent child is wiser than Plato eloquent.

[Illustration: VIEW OF MOELWYN]

A cuckoo had been singing, but now I heard it not; no longer did the
yellow-ammer insist, the thrush gossip, the blackbird muse; the sounds
of the house were dead: and I saw a hundred cows, some lying down, some
moving so lazily—like sailing ships on a wide sea—that I could not see
the changing of their pattern on the grass, and I was entangled in the
unfathomable dream of the unending hills and the unending valleys.

In the room hung a landscape of savage hills, cloven by dark shadows and
bright streams, and the glass reflected the calm grass and the hill and
the oak and hazel woods which thus mingled with the picture at times and
made a strange palimpsest of winter and spring. Now one and now the
other predominated, until some one came in, as three cuckoos flew crying
overhead, and sang this song, which gave the victory to spring:—


   1st verse.

     Mo-li merch-ed Cym-ru lân A fyn y gân a'r de - lyn
     Nid oes de-styn yn un man Mor anwyl gan y bech-gyn,
     Ac nid oes ferch-ed yn y tir Fel merch-ed Sir Gaer-fyrdd-in.

   2nd verse.

     Mae eu gruddiau glân i gyd Yn ca-rio gwrid y rho-syn,
     Ac mae lliw y li-li gun Ar wedd pob un o ho-nyn';
     Mae rhos a li - li hardd-a'r tir Ar rudd-iau Sir Gaer-fyrdd-in.

And something like these were the Welsh words, which were by Watcyn Wyn:

              Song and the harp desire to raise
              To sweet Wales praise for its women;
              Lads and their hearts have not one theme
              So dear, no dream so clinging;
              There are no maidens in the land
              Like the maiden band of Caermarthen....

              Of modest looks and nimble feet,
              They are just as fleet as the wind's wings;
              Dearly and lovesomely each floats
              Red petticoats out farther;
              They dance it swiftly through the earth,
              The maids who had birth in Caermarthen....

              When men would love they desire the way
              Of these; for, I say it in earnest,
              One is worth two or even three
              Of the usual free brave women.
              If I take a wife I shall kiss the braids
              Of one of the maids of Caermarthen.




All the morning I had walked among the mountains, and snow had fallen;
but gradually I descended, and found a hawthorn standing all white and
alone; and, at first, the delicacy of the country had an air of
unreality, as if it were but a fancy provoked by the grim, steep, cold
heights. Nor, at first, were the small farmhouses quite so real as the
crags I remembered. As I approached them, I seemed to be revisiting
lands that belonged to a fictitious golden past; but as I came up to
them, I was not undeceived, as I should have expected to be. How sweet
and grave were the young larches! The brooks were not running as I had
heard them up among the hills, but as brooks would run if I read of them
at home and at ease in the verses of some tender poet, or as they will
when I remember them many years hence. The sound of the world was heard
only as the laughter of youthful voices by the trout pools, or again as
the pealing of bells that presently grew and swelled and bubbled until
the valley in which they pealed overflowed with the sound, and the
moment of their ceasing was not marked. So at last I gave up some of the
pleasure of sight and hearing and smell under the influence of those
very senses. For a fancy came of a kind that is not easily avoided when
spring and our readiness for it come together. And the fancy was that I
was coming into a land whither had fled the transient desirable things
of childhood and early youth. Especially was it the land to which had
fled the acquaintances of that time, who were known, perhaps, only for
one day—one spring—with whom intimacy began to flower, and then death or
some less perfect destroyer intervened and "slit the thin-spun life" and
gave an unwithered rose into our keeping—the memory of a laugh, a
revelation, a catch of fish. We did not know them long enough to have
doubts, self-questionings, the egotistical indulgences in letters and
conversations of which we sometimes drink so deep that we taste the lees
and know futility. Or they passed away as childish games do: we made an
appointment and never kept it, and so we never knuckled the marble or
saw the child again. We knew them once, golden-haired, and with laughter
which no sigh followed, with clear voices in anger or love. These grow
not old! And with them are some of those who were once as they, the
friends who were once acquaintances: for who does not pleasantly (or
bitterly) remember the first fresh moments when, like a first glass, our
friends, with all their best qualities perhaps unknown, were tasted
carelessly, the palate quite unsoiled and in no need of the olives of
charity; or the moments when, with tastes and aims not yet mutually
discovered, we were yet dimly conscious of the end, seeing the whole
future under vague light? Some of these we can—and I did—recall as if
the happy voices had not died, but had simply made way for harsher or
sadder tones, and had fled here to keep an immortality. I heard them on
the fresh warm air. And with them hovered those I saw but once—in a
crowd, at a wayside inn—and desired; and at my evening inn some empty
chairs were not wholly in vain. Thus did the shadow of the mountain fall
far over the soft lands below.

[Illustration: VALLE CRUCIS ABBEY]


All sign of snow had left the hills, when long before sunrise, but not
before the east had begun to grow serious with thoughts of dawn, I came
upon a rough meadow, where a solitary thorn was white with flower—or of
that colour which white is in the dusk. It reminded me of snow, but
prettily defying the mountains, it meant all May. And it happened that
the day then being born was perfect May. The east opened, and the
close-packed, dwarfed hills were driven out of it like sheep, into the
gradual light. From that moment until the day passed in a drift of
purple and dim cloud, all things were marvellously clear. In the hedges,
on the rough meadows, and in the steep wastes under the cliffs, there
were hundreds of hawthorns flowering, and yet they were not hundreds,
but one and one and one.... They were as a crowd of which we know all
the faces, and therefore no crowd at all; and one by one these were to
be saluted. Not only the white thorns, but the oaks in the large fields,
and even the ashes and alders by the brooks were each distinct. If I had
raised my head, I should have seen, indeed, that the mountains were in
haze, and that what I had just passed was in haze. But I never saw, or
wished to see, for more than a quarter of a mile, and within that
distance all things were clear and separate, like books which oneself
has handled and known, every one. Even the daffodils under a hazel hedge
never became a patch. The women, at gateways or among the cows, stood
out like one or two statues in a large vacant hall. One field had in it
twelve isolated oak trees, and that they were twelve I saw clearly, and
wondered and admired, and never dreamed of thinking of them as just a
number of oaks. One by one the footpaths, to left or right, went up to
one of the oaks or thorns, and, untrodden, disappeared suddenly. And I
could not but recall the lovely clear pictures in old Welsh poetry and
story which had on winter nights reminded me of May. And chiefly this,
from the _Mabinogion_, was in my mind.

[Illustration: VIEW OF LLANGOLLEN]

"'I was,' said Kynon, 'the only son of my mother and father, and I was
exceedingly aspiring, and my daring was very great. I thought there was
no enterprise in the world too mighty for me, and after I had achieved
all the adventures that were in my own country, I equipped myself and
set forth through deserts and distant regions. And at length it chanced
that I came to the fairest valley in the world, wherein were trees of
equal growth; and a river ran through the valley, and a path was by the
side of the river. And I followed the path until mid-day, and continued
my journey along the remainder of the valley until the evening; and at
the extremity of an plai I came to a large and lustrous castle, at the
foot of which was a torrent. And I approached the castle, and there I
beheld two youths with yellow curling hair, each with a frontlet of gold
upon his head, and clad in a garment of yellow satin, and they had gold
clasps upon their insteps. In the hand of each of them was an ivory bow,
strung with the sinews of the stag; and their arrows had shafts of the
bone of the whale, and were winged with peacock's feathers; the shafts
also had golden heads. And they had daggers with blades of gold, and
with hilts of the bone of the whale. And they were shooting their


"'And a little way from them I saw a man in the prime of life, with his
beard newly shorn, clad in a robe and a mantle of yellow satin; and
round the top of his mantle was a band of gold lace. On his feet were
shoes of variegated leather, fastened by two bosses of gold. When I saw
him, I went towards him and saluted him, and such was his courtesy that
he no sooner received my greeting than he returned it. And he went with
me towards the castle. Now there were no dwellers in the castle except
those who were in one hall. And there I saw four-and-twenty damsels,
embroidering satin at a window. And this I tell thee, Kai, that the
least fair of them was fairer than the fairest maid thou hast ever
beheld in the Island of Britain, and the least lovely of them was more
lovely than Gwenhwyvar, the wife of Arthur, when she has appeared
loveliest at the Offering, or on the day of the Nativity, or at the
feast of Easter. They rose up at my coming, and six of them took my
horse, and divested me of my armour; and six others took my arms, and
washed them in a vessel until they were perfectly bright. And the third
six spread cloths upon the tables and prepared meat. And the fourth six
took off my soiled garments, and placed others upon me; namely, an under
vest and a doublet of fine linen, and a robe, and a surcoat, and a
mantle of yellow satin with a broad gold band upon the mantle. And they
placed cushions both beneath and around me, with coverings of red linen;
and I sat down. Now the six maidens who had taken my horse unharnessed
him, as well as if they had been the best squires in the Island of
Britain. Then, behold, they brought bowls of silver wherein was water to
wash, and towels of linen, some green and some white; and I washed. And
in a little while the man sat down to the table. And I sat next to him,
and below me sat all the maidens, except those who waited on us. And the
table was of silver, and the cloths upon the table were of linen; and no
vessel was served upon the table that was not either of gold or of
silver or of buffalo horn. And our meat was brought to us. And, verily,
Kai, I saw there every sort of meat and every sort of liquor that I have
ever seen elsewhere; but the meat and the liquor were better served
there than I have ever seen them in any other place....'"

Only the brain of the man who saw things thus could describe that clear
day in May.



It was a country of deep, calm pastures and slow streams that might have
been in England, except that smiling women at the last farm I had passed
were talking in Welsh and calling one another Mary Margaret, or Blodwen,
or Olwen; and that far off, like a dim thought or a half-forgotten
dream, a mountain conversed with the most distant clouds.


Along my path there had been many oaks and doves among their leaves; and
deep hedges that sent bragging stems of briers far out over the
footpath, and hid delicate single coils of black bryony in their
shadows; and little bridges of ferny stone, and beneath them quiet
streams that held flower and tree and cloud in their depth, as if in
memory; and great fields where there was nothing, or perhaps a merry,
childlike, scampering stoat that pursued a staring, trotting rabbit. I
had walked for ten miles and had not seen a man. But it would be more
just to ignore such measurements, since the number of milestones was
unimportant; so also were the hours. For the country had given me the
freedom of time. Dreams of brains that had long been dead became
stronger than the strong right hand of to-day and of yesterday. And
without asking, these verses sang themselves in my head:—

                 Midways of a walled garden,
                   In the happy poplar land,
                   Did an ancient castle stand,
                 With an old knight for a warden....

                 Across the moat the fresh west wind
                   In very little ripples went;
                   The way the heavy aspens bent
                 Towards it, was a thing to mind.

                 The painted drawbridge over it
                   Went up and down with gilded chains;
                   'Twas pleasant in the summer rains
                 Within the bridge-house there to sit.

              There were five swans that ne'er did eat
                The water weeds, for ladies came
                Each day, and young knights did the same,
              And gave them cakes and bread for meat.

I remembered them with a curious sense of being uncontrolled, or, if you
will, of being controlled as one is in sleep, and not by friends,
railways, clothes, and meals, as one usually is. I had entered that
golden age that is always with us, where there are no wars except in the
_Iliad_ and _Paradise Lost_. At one stile, I saw Aeneas,—in mediæval
mail,—revealing a blue-eyed, confident face, with a slippery mouth set
firm by his destiny.

The country was without obvious character. An artist could have made
nothing of it. Nothing in the arrangement of meadow and corn-land, wood
and reedy water, made a clear impression on the mind: they might,
perhaps, have been rearranged without attracting attention. So the
landscape occupied the eyes little and the mind not at all. Wandering
over it with no emotion but rest, I made of it what I would. In
different moods I might have met there Proserpina, or Camilla, or
Imogen. But chiefly I met there the vague persons of poetry, like
Shelley's Ione, which are but as large eyes or eloquent lips discerned
in fleeting darkness. And I was too deeply lost to be at once rescued by
the sight of a dignified, untenanted house, whose shrubberies I wandered
into, along a rabbit run as deep as a footpath in the short, hawk-weedy
grass. Docks and milk-thistles had not yet overpowered lupin and phlox
in the deep borders that still had a tinge of race in their order and
luxuriance. The martins of the eaves had added to the pompous portico of
the house, so that it had the look of wild rock. The roses had sent up
enormous talons from their roots and tyrannised everywhere. There were
no flowers in the garden more delicate than the enchanter's nightshade
and nipplewort of the shrubbery, and the short wild poppies that could
just flower in the old gravel of the paths. For this one moment the wild
and the cultivated were at peace together, and the harmony gave the
place an unreality,—so that even at the time I had a dim belief that I
was in a garden out of a book,—which made it a fit haven for my mood.
Then, in a corner, among ruined, ivy-covered elms, I found a stupid,
mournful grotto of wildly-shaped stones wildly accumulated: at the
threshold lay a penny doll that played a part between comedy and tragedy
very well. Going near, I saw, not quite so clearly as I see it now, a
long-bearded, miserable man, reclining, with fair, unwrinkled brow and
closed eyes and shining teeth. On his long sloping forehead a
high-mounted spider dreamed; yet he did not stir. A snake, in a fold of
his coat beneath his beard, disregarded the heaving of his chest. His
breath filled the grotto as a cow's would have done, and it was sweet.
And I turned away suddenly, put to shame by what my soul, rather than my
eyes, had recognised as Pan. For I ought to have been prepared and I was

And as I walked home in an embowered lane, some floating, clashing
insects troubled me, and that night, whilst I enjoyed the coming on of
sleep, I could not but fancy that I heard the whisper of a god's
garment, and wondered had I troubled a god's meditation and walk.


To-day, it is another country, as different from the last as old age
from maturity. No longer does the greenfinch in the hawthorn say a
hundred times that it has five young ones and is happy. No longer does
the perfect grass, seen betwixt the boles of beeches, burn against the
sky. For that dream of mountains has come true, and so many and so great
are they that I can compare my loneliness only with what I have fancied
to be the loneliness of one planet that now is and again is not in a
tumultuous, grey, midnight sky, or of a light upon a ship between clouds
and angry sea, far off.


The thought of steam and electricity never truly touches the primitive
sense of distance; and here, even the milestones among the foxgloves are
somewhat insolent, when they say that the town under that farthest hill
is thirty miles away; for the hill, unknown to me, is farther away than
any place I have ever seen, and I would rather say that it is thirty
years away and in the dim future or the dim past.

In their shape, there is something human, or suggesting human work, in
these hills. Castles, or less noble masonry, noble when fallen, look
thus in their ruins, and become thus tricked with delicate verdure and
flowers. A great plough driven at random through frosty country would
have turned up half-mile clods like these. And at twilight there is a
ridge like an extended giant with raised knees and chin thrown back; and
often I have seen a horned summit, like a Pan, capture the white moon.

This mountain ahead is not only old, but with its uncovered rock and
broken boulders and hoary streams and twisted trees, that look as if a
child had gathered garlands and put them in play upon the ancient stems,
it declares mightily, if vaguely, the immense past which it has seen.
There are English hills which remind us that this land also was once in
Arcady: they are of a golden age,—the age of Goldsmith, of Walton, of
Chaucer if you like, or of Theocritus; but they speak of nothing since;
they bear no wrinkles, no wounds, no trophies. But by this mountain you
cannot be really at ease until in some way you have travelled through
all history. For it has not been as nothing to it that Persia, Carthage,
Greece and Rome, and Spain have been great and are not. It has been worn
by the footprints of time which have elsewhere but made the grass a
little deeper or renewed the woods. It has sat motionless, looking on
the world; it has grown wrinkled; it is all memory. Were it and its
fellows to depart, we should not know how old we were; for we should
have only books. Therefore I love it. It offers no illusions. Its roads
are winding and rough. The grass is thin; the shelter scarce; the valley
crops moderate; the cheese and mutton good; the water pure; the people
strong, kind, intelligent, and without newspapers; the fires warm and
bright and large, and throwing light and shadow upon pewter and brass
and oak and books. It offers no illusions; for it is clear, as it is not
in a city or in an exuberant English county, that the world is old and
troubled, and that light and warmth and fellowship are good. Sometimes
comes a thought that it is a huge gravestone, so is it worn, so obscure
and brief its legend. It belongs to the past, to the dead; and the dead,
as they are more numerous, so here they are greater than we, and we only
great because we shall one day be of their number. You cannot look at it
without thinking that the time will come when it may be, and we are not,
nor the races of men—


                  sed haec prius fuere: nunc recondita
                  senet quiete.

And hearing an owl among its oak trees, its age was quaintly expounded
to me by that passage in the _Mabinogion_ where the Eagle of Gwernabwy
seeks a wife.

"The Eagle of Gwernabwy had been long married to his wife, and had by
her many children. She died, and he continued a long time a widower; but
at length he proposed a marriage with the Owl of Cwm Cawlwyd. But afraid
of her being young, so as to have children by her, and thereby degrade
his own family, he first of all went to inquire about her age amongst
the aged of the world. Accordingly he applied to the Stag of Rhedynfre,
whom he found lying close to the trunk of an old oak, and requested to
know the Owl's age.

"'I have seen,' said the Stag, 'this oak an acorn, which is now fallen
to the ground through age, without either bark or leaves, and never
suffered any hurt or strain, except from my rubbing myself against it
once a day, after getting up on my legs; but I never remember to have
seen the Owl you mention younger or older than she seems to be at this
day. But there is one older than I am, and that is the Salmon of

"The Eagle then applied to the Salmon for the age of the Owl. The Salmon
answered, 'I am as many years old as there are scales upon my skin, and
particles of spawn within my belly; yet never saw I the Owl you mention
but the same in appearance. But there is one older than I am, and that
is the Blackbird of Cilgwri.'

"The Eagle next repaired to the Blackbird of Cilgwri, whom he found
perched upon a small stone, and inquired of him the Owl's age.

"'Dost thou see this stone upon which I sit,' said the Blackbird, 'which
is now no bigger than what a man can carry in his hand? I have seen this
very stone of such weight as to be a sufficient load for a hundred oxen
to draw, which has suffered neither rubbing nor wearing, save that I rub
my bill on it once every evening, and touch the tips of my wings on it
every morning, when I expand them to fly; yet I have not seen the Owl
either older or younger than she appears to be at this day. But there is
one older than I am, and that is the Frog of Mochno Bog; and if he does
not know her age, there is not a creature living that does know it.'

"The Eagle went last of all to the Frog, and desired to know the Owl's
age. He answered, 'I never ate anything but the dust from the spot which
I inhabit, and that very sparingly; and dost thou see these great hills
that surround and overawe this bog where I lie? They are formed only of
the excrements from my body since I have inhabited this place; yet I
never remember to have seen the Owl but an old hag, making that hideous
noise Too-hoo-hoo, always frightening the children of the

Farther along the road, and not wholly cut off from a world of richer
fields, there is the ruin of an abbey, which, being the work of human
hands, says the same thing more clearly. It is but a cave of masonry
topped by umbrageous ivy that swells over its edge like froth over a
tankard. Altar and bells and books and large abbatic oven are gone. Only
the jackdaw remains. The winds blow through and through the ruins. There
is moss; here are flowers,—yellow cistus and cinque-foil, purple
fumitory, pearly eyebright, and still some white stitchwort stars. But
nothing dies save what we let die, and here, as in a library, on this
once consecrated ground, meet all religions. It has room for the Druid.
Its ivy leaves repeat the praises of moon and sun. It will deny no fairy
and no god an altar and a place for dancing. I have gone there with many
fancies and many memories of books, and there they find a home. And if,
as some have done, you go there with willingness and an inability to
accept what dreams have hitherto been dreamed, you may seem there,—in
favourable hours, when the casements of all the senses are opening wide
upon eternity, and all things are silent as fishes, and the curves of
bramble and brier among the masonry seem to be thinking,—to be on the
edge of a new mythology and to taste the joy of the surmises of him who
first saw Pan among the sedges or the olives.

[Illustration: BARMOUTH BRIDGE]



For three days I walked and drove towards Llyn-y-Fan Fach. On the first
day I passed through a country of furnaces and mines, and the country
had been exquisitely made. The gently swirling lines of hill and valley
spoke of the mountains far off, as the little waves and the foam coming
up the shore like chain-mail speak of the breakers out in the bay. Every
large field that was left unburdened by house or factory had a fair
curve in it, and even the odd pieces of land were something more than
building sites and suggested their context. But as we passed through,
only the highest points gave the curious eye any satisfaction, since the
straight lines of houses, the pits and the heaps of refuse, and the
enormous factories, obscured the true form of the land. Even so might
some survivor of a deluge look upon the fair land he knew; for we lacked
the courage to think of hill and valley as having undergone an
inevitable change, which in a century might be known to have brought
beauty with it, as changes do. Everything was brand-new, but not fresh.
A wanton child might have done it all, had he been large and rich and
careless enough to do it thus, _nec numero nec honore_. Or had it been
all built to the music of the organ-grinder whom I met playing, for the
joy of playing, "The Absent-minded Beggar"? The staring, mottled houses
of various stone and brick, which had no character save what comes of
perfect lack of character, might have been made by some neglected boy
who had only played with penny trains and motor cars and steamers and
bicycles. Phlox and foxglove, and sweet-william and snapdragon, and
campanula and amber lilies could not make sweet the "rockeries" of
hot-looking waste. The streets, named after factory magnates, had been
made in long blocks and broken up by the boy, thoughtlessly. The
factories themselves, noble as some of the furnaces were by day and
night when sweating men moved to and fro before them, were of the same
origin. They were mere cavities, and one marvelled that the smoke from
their chimneys was permitted to waver and roll in the same way as clouds
the most splendid and august. Many were already in places decayed. That
they had been glazed only to have the windows pierced by the stones of
happy children was all in their favour that could be seen. Their roofs
had fallen in, and neither moss nor ivy had had time to grow thereon;
the splintered wood was still new and white. Middle-aged men of fifteen
and aged men of thirty were in keeping with their ludicrous senility. A
millionaire playing at imitating antiquity could have done no worse. The
decay was made in Birmingham. Time had been sweated and had done its
work very ill. Here and there, indeed, there were scenes which perhaps
an unprejudiced mind would have found sublime. There were pools, for
example, filled with delicate grass and goldfish amongst it. They were
made yesterday, and yet had they fed little brooks for ages they could
not have been more shining and serene as sunset poured all its treasury
into their depths. Passing one, soon after dawn, and before the
night-workers had left the factory, the reeds in it stood up just so
that no storied pool had more the trick of antiquity. Near by, one green
field, set amidst houses and a factory, was enclosed by abundant but
ill-stretched barbed wire, without gate or possible entrance of any
kind. In the middle was a tattered notice, warning trespassers. No
cloister was ever more inviolate. The grass grew as it liked, and all
whom the heavy headstones of the buildings had spared in the rash burial
of rural divinities must there have danced; and the grass shone as if
with recent festival, and its emptiness hinted at a recent desertion.
All the other fields had been carelessly defaced by broken cheap china
and tin kettles and rags, and like cattle that have a day to live and
are insulted with the smell of their lucky companions' blood, they were
dreary and anxious. Footmarks, but not one footpath, crossed them in all
directions.... A Battersea kitchen after Christmas is adorned like this
land with similar spoiled toys. Their pathos is the same in kind; but
here it is worse, because a grown-up person—the original grandeur and
antiquity of the land as shown in the one green field—has burst in and
marred the completeness of the children's play.



At the edge of one village in this country there was a new public-house,
the worst of the buildings in the place, because the most impudent. It
glittered and stank and was called "The Prince of Wales." Inside,
English and some Welsh voices were singing together all of Britain's
most loved songs; perhaps "Dolly Gray" predominated, and in its
far-floating melody the world-sorrow found a voice; for a harper played
on the harp while they sang. The landlord liked to have the harper
there, because he drew customers and kept them, and it was clear that he
himself, when he had time, loved music, since he took his pipe out of
his mouth to hum the last words of a song about a skylark, a dead
mother, and some angels. The next song was "The Rising of the Lark,"
which begins thus:



No one sang except the harper; the landlord frowned, remarked that "Evan
was very drunk tonight," and offered to stop the song if we objected,
and then began to talk. He said that the harper was a poor sort of man;
had been a schoolmaster and was a "scholar"; had been to prison for an
unmentioned crime; and was now a man with a wife, whom he supported by
odd jobs and by "my own charity, for," explained the host, "I let him
have his drinks free." He was fond of his harp, as if it had been a
horse or a barrel of beer; and boasted, when drunk, that he knew that he
was the sixth of his family who had played the harp, and that same harp,
and that he was the last of the true harpers. So we went into the
taproom and sat down with fourteen miners and the harper, who was doing
his best with "God bless the Prince of Wales."

"You are fond of your National Anthem," said a voice which might have
cut glass and perhaps came from Glasgow.

Whereupon, with sublime, gentle anger the harper played and sang the
National Anthem of Wales:—


  Mae hen wlad fy Nhadau yn anwyl i mi, Gwlad beirdd a chantorion, en-
  wogion o fri; Ei gwrol ry - fel - wyr, gwlad-garw-yr tra
  mad, Dros ryddid goll-a-sant eu gwaed. Gwlad! Gwlad!
  pleid - iol wyf i'm Gwlad, Tra môr yn fur i'r
  bur hoff bau, O bydded i'r hen-iaith ba - rhau.


The words cannot, of course, be translated, but the following are as
much like them as a photograph of Snowdon is like Snowdon. "Dear to me
is the old land of my fathers, a land of bards and minstrels of great
name. Her brave warriors, best of patriots, poured out their blood for
freedom. Ancient and mountainous Wales, Paradise of the bard, every
valley and cliff is lovely in my sight; through the feeling of
patriotism, how alluring is the ripple on her rivers and brooks. If the
enemy treads my country under foot, the old language of the Welsh lives
as it used to live; the Muse suffers not, in spite of the horrid hand of
the traitor, nor yet the melodious harp of my country." And the chorus
says: "My country, my country, I am bound up with my country. While the
sea is a boundary to the fair and well-loved place, may the old language
last." ...

While he sang, we saw that the harper was a little, pale, snub-nosed,
asthmatic man, with red hair and a delicate, curved mouth and
heavy-lidded, pathetic, sentimental, but unsympathetic grey eyes, and
glowing white fingers. He leaned over his instrument as a mother over
her child when she is bathing it, or as a tired man reaping with a
reaping-hook. He evidently knew what he liked; yet, as the evening wore
out, he lost himself sentimentally over the poorest tunes. He seemed to
love listening at least as well as playing. Slowly we emptied the house
of all its Englishmen by encouraging him to play the airs which the harp
had known through all its life. He played the plaintive best. Such quick
happiness as "New Year's Eve," which begins—


moved his sorrow more and his sentiment less, and his white fingers
stuck among the strings.

When he rose at 11 P.M. to go, he could carry the harp, but hardly
himself; and we led him home, murmuring sad ditties lovingly. As he
stumbled in, he cursed his wife, a frail burden of middle age,
singularly like himself, and then continued to murmur.

The light of one candle and the beauty of the harp almost made beautiful
the room in which we stood, while he sat with his instrument. The garish
wall-paper was mildewed with lovely gleaming white fur, near the
windows; elsewhere it was decorated by a large tradesman's photograph of
Mr. Chamberlain, a copy of "The Maiden's Prayer," and the usual framed
mourning verses on relatives; there was, too, a plush mandoline, and in
the hearth a frond of the royal fern, and over it photographs of two
generations of big consumptive men.


For a time the harper hesitated between the English tunes which were
most in favour at "The Prince of Wales" and the songs for which the harp
was made, when it was made for a bard who could string a harp, make a
song for it, and accompany himself on the strings. We praised the Welsh
airs, and though he seemed to ignore us, he played nothing else. We saw
only his eyes, his white flickering fingers, and the harp, and as the
triumphant, despairing, adoring melodies swept over it, this foolish
casket of a man seemed to gather up all that could live of the lovers
and warriors of a thousand years. No epitaph could be so eloquent of
transient mortality. He had but to cloud or brighten those cruel,
sentimental eyes, and to whisper to the dead instrument, to utter all
that they had ever uttered. To this heir had come the riches of many
hearts and he squandered them in a taproom for beer, and here for our
amusement, as if they had been no better than gold and he a spendthrift.
When sometimes he paused and silence came, or only the bark of a pump
was heard, we seemed to have been assisting at the death and the last
carouse of the souls for whom the music spoke. They lived only in his
fingers and the harp, and with these they must die. They were as
fleeting as pale butterflies in storm or as the Indian moonflower that
blossoms only after sunset in May. Yet again and again the fingers and
the harp consented to their life, and reassured, and half-believing
that, because he had so much in trust, he could not die, we sat down and
fell asleep, and waking again, were not surprised to find, as the July
dawn approached, that the harper was harping still. For in that holy
light that twittered among the strings, he was an immortal harper,
doomed for ever to go on, because there was so much to be done, and
because, as the landlord had said, he was the last of his race.


I went on, and was over the edge of this country, "built to music and so
not built at all," when the sun began to rise behind me. Before, a range
of hills stood up against the cold sky with bold lines such as a happy
child will draw who has much paper and a stout crayon, and looked so
that I remembered the proverb which says, that if a man goes up Cader
Idris at night, by dawn he is dead, or mad, or a poet. They were
immense; they filled half the sky; yet in the soft light that felt its
way glimmeringly, and as if fearfully, among their vast valleys and
along their high crags, they looked like ruins of something far more
mighty; the fields also, on this side of them, and all the alder-loving
streams and massy woods, were but as the embers of something which the
night had made and had only half destroyed before its flight. And it was
with surprise that, as I took my eyes off the prospect and looked down
and in the hedge, I saw that I was in a place where lotus and agrimony
and vetch were yellow, and the wild rose continued as ever to hesitate
between red and white.


It was not long possible to turn my back upon the rising sun, and when I
looked round, I saw that the country I had left had been taken into the
service of the dawn and was beautiful two miles away. Factory and
chimney and street were bent in a rude circle round the sun, and were as
the audience of some story-teller, telling a new tale—silent, solemn,
and motionless, round a fire; and over them the blue clouds also were
silent, solemn, and motionless, listening to the same tale, round the

When I went on towards the hills, they by that time looked as if they
had never known the night; and sweet it was to pass, now and then, a
thatched, embowered cottage, with windows open to the scented air, and
to envy the sleepers within, while I could see and recognise the
things—the sky and earth and air, the skylarks singing among the fading
stars, and the last cuckoo calling in the silent, vast and lonely summer
land—which make dreamless sleep amidst them so divine, I had long not
known why. For half the day there was nothing to remember but sudden
long views that led, happily, nowhere, among the clouds or the hills,
and farms with sweetly smiling women, and jutting out of every
hedge-bank a little _pistyll_ of fair water, curving and shining in the
heat, over a slice of stone or through a pipe, into the road. These
things the memory has to work to remember. For, in truth, the day was
but as a melody heard and liked. A child who, in the Welsh story, went
to the land of the fairies, could only say that he had been listening to
sweet airs, when he returned after a long stay.

But at length, when I was among the hills, the ferns whispered all along
the stony hedges, and on a cold stream of wind came the scent of
invisible hay, and a great drop of rain shook all the bells on a
foxglove stalk, and the straight, busy rain came down, and the hills
talked with the heavens while it thundered heavily. The doves and jays
only left the hedge as I passed within reach of them. The crouching
partridge did not stir even after her eye caught mine. The lightning was
as a tree of fire growing on the northern sky. The valley below was a
deep and tranquil mere, in which I saw a church and trees and fields, as
if they were reflections of things in the sky, and, like reflections in
water, they were reverend in their beauty. The rain in my face washed
off more than the weariness of a long day's walk, and I rejoiced, and
found it easy to catch a train six miles off, which had seemed

[Illustration: VIEW OF CADER IDRIS]


On the next day I was near the lake, Llyn-y-Fan Fach, and high up among
hills, which had in many places outgrown their grassy garments, and
showed bare cliffs, senates of great boulders, and streams of sliding
fragments of stone like burnt paper. The delicate mountain sheep were
panting in the heat, or following the shifting oasis of a shadow that
sometimes moved across the hill; a horse stood nervously still, envying
the shadow which he cast upon the ground. The world, for hours, was a
hot, long road, with myself at one end and the lake at the other, when
gradually I descended into a gentle land again.

Far off, church bells were celebrating the peace and beauty of the
morning as I turned into a lane of which more than twenty yards were
seldom visible at one time; and I lost sight of everything else. Tall
hedgerow elms and orchard trees held blue fragments of the sky among
their leaves and hid the rest. Here and there was a cottage among the
trees, and it seemed less the work of human hands than the cordon and
espalier trees, apple and pear, and the fan-shaped cherry on the wall,
with glowing bark. July, which had made the purple plum and the crimson
bryony berry, had made it also, I thought. The lane was perhaps long
enough to occupy an hour of the most slow-paced tranquil human life.
Even if you talked with every ancient man that leaned on his spade, and
listened to every young linnet that was learning to sing in the hazels,
you could not spend more than two hours in passing along it. Yet, more
than once, as I was pausing to count the white clusters of nuts or to
remind myself that here was the first pale-blue flower of succory, I
knew that I took up eternity with both hands, and though I laid it down
again, the lane was a most potent, magic thing, when I could thus make
time as nothing while I meandered over many centuries, consulting many
memories that are as amulets. And even as I walked, the whole of time
was but a quiet, sculptured corridor, without a voice, except when the
tall grasses bowed and powdered the nettles with seed at my feet. For
the time I could not admit the existence of strident or unhappy or
unfortunate things. I exulted in the knowledge of how cheaply purchased
are these pleasures, exulted and was yet humiliated to think how rare
and lonely they are, nevertheless. The wave on which one is lifted clear
of the foam and sound of things will never build itself again. And yet,
at the lane's end, as I looked back at the long clear bramble curves, I
will confess that there was a joy (though it put forth its hands to an
unseen grief) in knowing that down that very lane I could never go
again, and was thankful that it did not come rashly and suddenly upon
the white highroad, and that there is no such thing known to the spirit
as a beginning and an end. For not without cool shadow and fragrance was
the white highroad.

Then, after some miles up a hot and silent hill, I came to the lake
under the chin of a high summit, and it was cool....

At the end of the twelfth century, when Owen Gwynedd in the north and
Lord Rhys in the south made little of English kings, a farmer's widow
lived with one son at Blaensawdde, near the lake. She sent her cattle on
to the Black Mountain under the care of her son. And the cattle liked
Llyn-y-Fan because the great stones on its shore gave them shade, and
because the golden stony shallows were safe and sweet, and no water was
finer than that in the little quiet wells of the Sawdde brook.

Watching his cattle there one day, the youth saw a lovely girl, with
long, yellow hair and pale, melancholy face, seated on the surface of
the lake and looking down into the mirror of the water, for she was
combing her hair. Some say that she was rowing with golden sculls up and
down the lake in a golden boat, so ample was her hair. The young man was
moved by her loveliness to hold out to her his own barley-bread and
cheese, which was all that he had with him. And she came near, but she
would not accept the food; when he tried to touch her, she slid away,

                     "O thou of the crimped bread,
                     'Tis not easy to catch me";

and so disappeared, as a lily when the waves are rising.

The youth told his adventure to his mother, who advised him to take
unbaked dough for the girl, instead of his crisp barley bread.

[Illustration: MIST ON CADER IDRIS]

The next morning he was at the lake before dawn, and saw cold ripples on
the water and a cloud on the highest of the hills. But as the light
overcame the cloud and began to warm the ripples, he saw some of his
cattle in danger on the steep side of the lake, where the rains run
almost perpendicularly down to the margin and cut weals of naked red
earth in the mountain-side. And as he was running round to the cattle,
he saw the girl upon the water, and again held out his hand to offer his
unbaked dough. Again she refused, and said:

                      "O thou of the moist bread,
                      I will not have thee."

Then, with smiles, she disappeared.

The youth told his second adventure to his mother, and she advised him
to take slightly baked bread. The Welsh have a proverb: "Better is
cookery than kingship"; and she being skilled with the oven, baked him
the bread.

The next morning he was again at the lake. The cold ripples turned to
gold and then to silver, and the cloud left the mountain; and he saw the
wind making grey O's and V's on the water, until it was almost evening,
and behind him the oak trees in the Sawdde valley gleamed where his
homeward way would be, when he saw several cows walking on the water,
and then the girl moving towards him. He ran forward into the water; he
held out the bread, and she took it, and promised to marry him on the
condition that he should not give her three causeless blows; if he did,
she would disappear. Suddenly she left him, and he would have cast
himself in with despair, if she had not returned with another as
beautiful and in the same way, together with a majestic, tall, and hoary
man, who promised to bestow the girl upon him if he could distinguish

So the two girls stood before him; and the youth, casting down his eyes
in thought and perplexity, saw one thrust her little foot forward, and
he noticed how her sandals were tied, because he had before studied the
beauty of her ankles and feet; and he chose rightly. The old man
promised that they should have as many cattle, horses, sheep, and goats
as she could count of each without drawing breath. The girl counted
quickly, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and so on, and all the beasts
came up from the lake; and the young man went with the girl and married
her, and lived at Esgair Llaethdy beyond Blaensawdde, and there she bore
him three sons.

[Illustration: IN THE WOODS, BERWYN]

But one day, when they were to go together to a christening, she was
reluctant, saying that it was too far to walk; and he bade her take a
horse. She asked for her gloves, and when he returned with them, he
found her still delaying, and flicked her shoulder with one and said
pettingly, "Go, go." And she reminded him that he had given her a
causeless blow.

On another day, at a wedding, she gave way to tears, and he tapped her
shoulder to admonish her. And she reminded him that he had given her two
causeless blows.

Many years later, at a funeral, she laughed, and again he tapped her
shoulder. And she turned, and called her cattle and horses and sheep and
goats by name—the brindled cow, the white speckled, the mottled, the
white-faced cows;

                    "And the grey Geingen
                    With the white bull
                    From the court of the king;
                    And the little black calf
                    Though suspended on the hook,
                    Come thou also quite well home";

and the four grey oxen ploughing in the fields. They followed her to the
lake, and behind them grew the furrow made by the plough which the four
oxen still drew, and they all entered the lake.

Her sons desired to see her, and she appeared again to her son
Rhiwallon, and told him that he was to be a healer of men, and gave him
prescriptions, and promised that if he needed her, she would come again.
So she often met them near the lake, and once walked with them towards
Myddfai, as far as Pant-y-Meddygon, where she showed them herbs and
their virtues. And they became famous, and good physicians. They were
physicians to Rhys Gryg of South Wales; and the last of their
descendants who practised at Myddfai was buried in 1739 at Myddfai



On a fine, very hot day I had to wait three hours for a train, and
should have left the bald junction for that time, if I had not seen
there a poet of my acquaintance, contentedly reading Spenser on the
central platform. I sat down with him, but he preferred reading to
talking, and I looked over his shoulder to read:

                 Begin then, O my dearest sacred Dame!
                 Daughter of Phœbus and of Memorye....

[Illustration: ABERDOVEY]

And I could not sufficiently admire his fortitude, until, on the arrival
of a train, he left the book on the seat, and walked down alongside the
train. It stopped ten minutes, and he talked with persons in three
different carriages before it left. He came back unperturbed, and told
me briefly that —— from Patagonia was in the train, with —— the bard
from North Wales, and a friend from London. Seeing me surprised, he
explained that every Saturday in the summer he spent entirely on the
platform, waiting for surprises of this kind. Four trains stopped there
before I left, and each seemed to be laden with friends and
acquaintances,—some who lived in distant parts and even overseas, and
some whom he had not seen for years. And some of the persons whom he
greeted he had never seen before, which was a good reason for greeting
them; he had perhaps heard of them, or they of him; and so they talked.

The liking of Welshmen for Welshmen is very strong, and that not only
when they meet on foreign soil, as in London, but in their own land.
They do not, I suppose, love their neighbours more than other men do,
but when they meet a fellow-countryman for the first time they seem to
have a kind of surprise and joy, in spite of the commonness of such
meetings. They do not acquiesce in the fact that the man they shake
hands with is of their race, as English people do. They converse readily
in trains: they are all of one family, and indeed if you are Welsh, not
only can you not avoid meeting relatives, but you do not wish to. Small
news about the coming and going of people travels among them rapidly,
and I have never got out of a train in Wales without feeling that I
shall meet some one whom I should like to meet, on the platform or in
the first street. They like their own land in the same way. I do not
easily believe in patriotism, in times of peace or war, except as a
party cry, or the result of intoxication or an article in a newspaper,
unless I am in Wales.

I did not know before that any save sellers of newspapers were happy in
railway stations, and as my train went out, I passed the poet at his
Spenser again and recalled the poem called "Howell's Delight," which was
written by a young, unfortunate prince of North Wales in the twelfth

     A white foam-crowned wave flows o'er the grave
     Of Rhuvawn Bevyr, chief of Rulers.
     I this day hate England, a flat and inactive land,
     With a people involved in every wile;
     I love the land where I had the much-desired gift of mead,
     Where the shores extend in tedious conflict;
     I love the society and the numerous inhabitants
     Therein, who, obedient to their Lord,
     Direct their views of peace;
     I love its sea-coast and its mountains,
     Its cities bordering on its forests, its fair landscapes,
     Its dales, its waters, and its vales,
     Its white seamews, and its beauteous women;
     I love its warriors, and its well-trained steeds,
     Its woods, its strongholds, and its social domicile;
     I love its fields clothed with tender trefoil,
     Where I had the glory of a lasting triumph;
     I love its cultivated regions, the prerogative of heroism,
     Its far extended wilds, and its sports of the chase,
     Which, Son of God! are great and wonderful.
     How sleek the majestic deer, and in what plenty found;
     I achieved with a push of a spear the task of honour
     Between the Chief of Powys and fair Gwynedd;
     And if I am pale in the rush of conflict,
     'Tis that I know I shall be compelled to leave my country,
     For it is certain that I cannot hold out till my party comes,
     A dream has revealed it, and God says 'tis true.
     A white foam-crowned wave flows o'er the grave,
     A white bright-foaming wave boldly raves against the towns,
     Tinted the time it swells like glittering hoar.
     I love the marches of Marioneth,
     Where my head was pillowed on a snow-white arm;
     I love the nightingale on the privet wood
     In the famous vale of Cymmer Deuddwfr,
     Lord of heaven and earth, the glory of Gwyneddians.
     Though it is so far from Keri to Caerliwelydd,
     I mounted the yellow steed, and from Maelienydd
     Reached the land of Reged between night and day.
     Before I am in the grave, may I enjoy a new blessing
     From the land of Tegyngyl of fairest aspect!


The flowers by the road, wood-betony, sage, mallow, ragwort ... were
dry; the larches, that were fitted to the hillside like scales or breast
feathers, were dry; but a mountain stream, which many stones tore to
ribbons, was with me for miles, and to the left and to the right many
paths over the hills ran with alluring courses for half a mile, like
happy thoughts or lively fancies, and ended suddenly. The mountains
increased in height as the sun sank, and their sides began to give a
home to enormous, still shadows and to rich, inaccessible groves among
the clefts. And in the end of the afternoon I came to a village I knew,
which grew round an irregular lawn.

From the inn, I could see the whole village.

The limes before me were full of light; the green grass beyond was
tending to be grey. There were not far fewer people than usual in the
neighbourhood, yet the calm was great. It seemed to have something to
announce and to call solemnly for silence; the voice of a child crying,
a man with shining cuffs, was an extraordinary impertinence.


But two reclining cows were calm enough, and in the middle distance an
oak was stately enough. A tramp, his wife, and five children spoke with
quiet, husky voices that were sad enough. A passage from _Hyperion_
which I recalled was noble enough. Six bells that rang three miles off
and some white downs of cloud on the horizon were in harmony. It was a
time when the whole universe strove to speak a universal speech, the
speech of the stars in their courses, of the flower that is beautiful,
of the soul that aspires, of the mind that thinks. But, as it seemed,
owing to my fault, the effort was unsuccessful, and I rose hurriedly and
left the village behind.


And while the hedgerows on one side of the road were in places rich with
the heavy, horizontal sunshine that came through gateways on the other
side, I saw the star-like shining of the windows of an old house on a
hill. A difficult winding lane led up to it, and so long was the lane
that between the road and the house a badger and a raven had their
homes. When I came near the house one pallid angle of it glowed, and
only where it glowed was it visible.

The house was perhaps two hundred years old—stately, grey as the old
blackthorns in the hedge, and it was, perhaps because I knew of the
fading race that had lived within it, the oldest thing among those old
hills. It was more unchangeable than the most grim crag on the hills
which had its milkwhite harebell on that day. It was a survival from
winter, from hundreds of winters, and therefore, though young in years,
it spoke a language which time, knowing that the unchangeable is dead,
had forgotten:

         A spirit calling in an old old tongue
         Forgotten in lost graves in lonesome places;
         A spirit huddled in an old old heart
         Like a blind crone crouched o'er a long-dead fire....

Nothing ever happened among the Powells at ——. The lawn was mowed; the
fern from the hill was carted down; the little red apples ripened; the
Powell hair turned from gold to grey. A stranger, indeed, heard much of
them, but when he asked where they lived, he was told that there were
thirty of them in the church and one at —— on the hill. Five generations
of them had lived there, since the only conspicuous one of the family
had died in the first war with Napoleon. Of those five, the last could
only say that theirs had been the most desperate of quests, for they
knew not what they sought. They had lived in dignity and simplicity,
neither sporting nor cultured, yet loving foxhounds and books.
Generation after generation of the children had learned "L'Allegro" and
"Il Penseroso" from their fathers, and with all their happiness in that
dim house, they learned to love "Il Penseroso" best....



In the afternoon I climbed out of a valley, descended again, and came on
to a road that rolled over many little hills into many little valleys,
and at the top of each hill grew the vision of a purple land ahead. But,
for some miles, the valleys were solitary. There were brooks in them
with cold, fresh voices, and copses of oak, and sometimes the smoke or
the white wall of a house. There sang the latest of the willow-wrens,
and among the blackthorns a bullfinch, with delicate voices. The air was
warm and motionless; the light on oak and grass was steady and rich; the
sky was low and leaning gently to the earth, and its large white clouds
moved not, though they changed their shapes. But these things belonged
to the brooks, the copses, the willow-wrens; or so it seemed, since that
warm day, which elsewhere might have seemed so kind with an ancient
kindness as if to one returning home after long exile, was not kind, but
was indifferent and made an intruder of me. And I should have passed the
stony hedges and the little brooks over the road and the desolate mine,
in the indifferent little worlds of the valleys, one by one, as if they
had been in a museum, or as if I had been taken there to admire them,
had it not been that on the crests of the road between valley and
valley, I saw the purple beckoning hills far away, and that, at length,
towards the last act of the dim, rich, long-drawn out and windless
sunset, the road took me into a small valley that was different. Just
within reach of the sunset light, on one side of the valley lay a farm,
with ricks, outhouses, and two cottages, all thatched. In the corner of
the field nearest to the house, the long-horned craggy cattle were
beginning to lie down. Those cattle, always vast and fierce, seemed to
have sprung from the earth—into which the lines of their recumbent
bodies flowed—out of which their horns rose coldly and angrily. The
buildings also had sprung from the earth, and only prejudice taught me
that they were homes of men. They enmeshed the shadows and lights of
sunset in their thatch, and were as some enormous lichen-covered things,
half crag, half animal, which the cattle watched, together with five

There was not a sound, until a child ran to a pump, and sang a verse of
some grave hymn lightheartedly, and filled a shining can with dark
water, and disappeared.


Then I raised my eyes, so that they crept swiftly, though not without
feeling the weariness of the distance, over hill after hill to the one
upon which the last, mild, enormous, purple dragon of the sunset was
pasturing; yet I saw nothing in earth or sky which did not belong to
those things, half crag, half animal, in the small valley, in happiness
and peace that consented to the voice of the child.

Then I passed the farm and saw a crimson fire casting innumerable arms
about a room; I heard the rattle and click of the pump; and I knew that
it was cold, that I had far to go, and that the desolation beyond the
farm was illimitable.

For such moods of the world are easily shut against us for some small
thing, as the world of the little people was shut against the man in the
tale which Gerald of Wales repeats:—

A priest of Gower, named Elidorus, told Gerald that when he was a
schoolboy he was often beaten by his master. So one day he ran away and
hid himself in a hollow among the alder roots at the edge of a stream.
There he was safe, but had no food. And on the third day two wonderfully
little men came to him and said that if he would come with them, they
would lead him to a happy and pleasant country. He therefore left his
hiding-place and went with the little men through a country of wood and
field and water that was beautiful, although they saw neither sun nor
moon. At last they came to the court of the king, and Elidorus was
presented to him; and, after looking at him carefully, the king gave him
over to his young son. And the people of that country, though they were
wonderfully little, were beautiful in shape and of a fair complexion,
and they wore long hair that fell over their shoulders in the manner of
women. Their horses and hounds were of a suitable size. The little
people ate neither flesh nor fish, but lived on milk, which they
concocted with saffron. They never took an oath; they always spoke the
truth. Nor had they any kind of public worship, but simply kept and
loved good faith. And their language was very much like Greek, as he
afterwards said.

[Illustration: THE STACKS, NEAR TENBY]

The little people often went up into our world, and never returned
without speaking harshly of men for their ambition and want of faith and
constancy. Sometimes Elidorus went up with them. Sometimes he went up
alone, but revealed himself to his mother only, telling her of his life
and of the little people and their country. When he told her that gold
abounded there, she asked him to bring her some golden thing as a gift.
So he stole a golden ball from the son of the king and ran to his mother
with it. But the little people pursued him, and in his haste he stumbled
over the threshold of his mother's door and fell. He lost hold of the
ball, and the little people picked it up and went away, laughing at him
and taunting him. And when he rose up, he was ashamed and angry because
he had stolen the ball. Then he would have gone back to the country of
the little people, but, although he searched for a year, he could never
discover the true path. In course of time he gave up the search and the
hope of returning. He even went back to school and became a priest. But
long afterwards, when he was an old man, he could never speak of his
strange truancy without tears.



The rain and the wind had ceased, and in the garden the Painted Lady
butterflies were tremulously enjoying the blue Michaelmas daisies, and
an old man was gathering seeds of hollyhock, evening primrose, and
foxglove, and putting them into white cups on the garden paths. In the
hedges the bryony coils were crimson and green among thorn and hazel;
the sparrows were thick in the elms, whose branches had snatched straws
from passing waggons; one bare ash tree was all in bud with singing
linnets. Over all was a blue sky, with throbbing clouds of rooks; and
beyond all, over leagues of rocky pastures and grim oaks, the
mountains,—and upon one of them a white flower of cloud or snow, above
which presently rose many clouds, and in the midst of them a narrow pane
of sky full of misty golden light, and behind that a land where Troy is
still defended,—where still Camilla, loving war and maidenhood
eternally, bounds over the unbending corn,—and where, in the hall of a
castle, four-and-twenty damsels are embroidering satin, and the least
lovely of them is lovelier than Gwenhwyvar, the wife of Arthur, "when
she has appeared loveliest at the Offering, or on the day of the
Nativity, or at the feast of Easter."


The last village was far behind. The last happy chapel-goer had passed
me long ago. A cock crowed once and said the last word on repose. The
rain fell gently; the stems of the hazels in the thickets gleamed; and
the acorns in the grassy roads, and under the groups of oaks, showed all
their colours, and especially the rosy hues where they had but just
before been covered by the cup. One by one I saw the things which make
the autumn hedges so glorious and strange at a little distance: the
yellow ash trees, with some green leaves; the hoary and yellow willows;
the hawthorns, purple and crimson and green; the briers, with most hips
where there were fewest leaves; the green brambles with red fruit and
black; tall, grey, and leafless thistles with a few small crimson
flowers; the grey-green nettles with purple stems; the ragwort flowers;
and on the long, green, wet grass the fallen leaves shining under red
and yellow oaks; and through the olive lances of hazel the fields
shining in patines of emerald. Doves cooed in the oaks, pheasants
gleamed below. The air was full of the sweetness of the taste of
blackberries, and the scent of mushrooms and of crumbling, wild
carrot-seeds, and the colour of yellow, evening grass. The birches up on
the hills above the road were golden, and like flowers. Between me and
them a smouldering fire once or twice sent up dancing crimson flames,
and the colour and perfume of the fire added themselves to the power of
the calm, vast, and windless evening, of which the things I saw were as
a few shells and anemones at the edge of a great sea. The valley waited
and waited.

Then by the roadside I saw a woman of past middle age sitting silently.
Her small head was poised a little haughtily on a blithe neck; her fine,
grey, careful hair spared gloomy white forehead and round ears, which
shone; her full, closed lips spoke clearly of both the sadness of to-day
and the voluptuousness of yesterday. She was beautiful, and not merely
because she had once been a beautiful girl. She had become mortal
through grief, and though I could not see her crown, yet crowned she

Will you always, O sad and tranquil Demeter, sit by the wayside and
expect Persephone?


It was the last day of the month, and in a gently heaving land, which
was broken every three or four miles by a sudden, castled crag, Autumn
was perfect, but with just a touch of sublimity added to its beauty by
the thought that, on the next day or the next, winter would fall upon
her unsuspected, as Pizarro and the Spanish cavalry fell upon that noble
Indian, Atahualpa, who had come up to them in peace and meekness and
pomp, upon a golden litter, among thousands of his gentle subjects,
making music and decorated with gold, and expecting to meet the gods.


The bells of the cattle on broad, yellow lawns were ringing. Squirrels
glowed in the road; the heavy rooks let fall the acorns among the leaves
continually. The last beams of the sun reached now a circle of high
bracken on a far-off hill, and reached it alone and transfigured it with
strong, quiet light; and then made one brown hill seem to be consumed in
a golden glow, while the next hill was sombre; and again devoted
themselves to a group of beeches that shone ruddy, branch and leaf and
bole, and divine and majestic and unrelated to the cattle passing

The sun went down; wild-duck and moorhen cried and scudded on the calm,
winding, silver river at my feet; and in a field beyond, that retained
so much liquid and lugubrious light as to seem a green water, some
laughing boys in white and yellow played football, without regarding the
silver and purple, frosty sky, to which, nevertheless, their shrill
voices added something, from which their movements took something, that
was glorious and pathetic. And near by, dark oxen with rocking gait
thrust their horns up into the sky as they approached the bridge.



The night had almost come, and the rain had not ceased, among the hills
of an unknown country. Behind me, twelve desolate miles of hill and sky
away, was a village; and on the way to it, half-a-dozen farms; and
before me were three or four houses scattered over two or three miles of
winding lanes, with an inn and a church. The parson had just come away
from his poultry, and as his wife crossed the road with her apron over
her head, I asked where the inn was, and whether it had a room ready in
the winter. Two minutes after she had seen me—if she could see me in the
dark lane—she had told me that if the inn had no room, I was not to go
farther, but to stay at the vicarage. But the inn had a bed to spare,
and there was good beer to be had by a great fire in a room shining with
brass and pewter, and overhead guns and hams and hanks of wool; and the
hostess was jocund, stout, and young, and not only talkative but anxious
to be talked to, and she had that maternal kindness—or shall I call it
the kindness of a very desirable aunt?—towards strangers, which I have
always found in Welsh women, young and old, in the villages and on the
moors. So there I stayed and listened to the rain and the fire and the
landlady's rich, humming voice uttering and playing strange tricks with
English. I was given a change of clothing as if I had asked and paid for
it. Then I went to the vicarage, and because I said I loved Welsh hymns
and Welsh voices, the vicar and his wife and daughter, without unction
or preparation or a piano, sang to me, taking parts, some tremendous
hymns and some gay melodies,

             Whence banished is the roughness of our years,

which made the rain outside seem April rain. They sang, and told me
about the road I was to follow, until I had to go to my inn.

Next day, after paying what I liked at the inn, and promising the
hostess that I would learn Welsh, I walked for twenty miles over stony
roads gleaming with rain upon the white thorns and bloom on the sloes,
and through woods where nothing brooded solemnly over grey moss and
green moss on the untrodden, rotten wood, and up dry, ladder-like beds
of brooks that served as paths, over peat and brindled grass, and along
golden hazel hedges, where grew the last meadow-sweet with herb-robert
and harebell and one wild rose, and above little valleys of lichened ash
trees; and sometimes beneath me, and sometimes high above, the yellow
birches waved in the rain, like sunset clouds fettered to the ground and
striving and caracoling in their fetters.

Again I came at nightfall to a strange farmhouse, and was honoured by
being asked into the kitchen; again I was given dry clothes. The juicy
mutton broke up like game. The farmer sang to me from the Welsh
hymn-book and from a collection of old Welsh songs, in a room which was
none the worse for a portrait of Miss Maud Millett, "The Soldier's
Farewell," and the presence of a fierce-thoughted, mild-eyed young
minister, who was the most majestic man I have seen since I first saw
the shop-walkers at Maple's—the kind of man whom one supposes that the
animals observe, and so learn to temper their contempt for us. This man
had the strange whim to call the devil a gentleman, a poor distinction
which I could not understand until he showed me a passage, that should
be highly interesting to gentlemen and the residue of mankind, in one of
the Iolo MSS. Beginning at the beginning, the MS. declares that Adam's
eldest son was ungenteel, "a low vassal"; but Seth and Abel were
genteel. The angels also, the tenth grade, who fell from heaven, were
ungenteel, "through pride, which is the principal characteristic of
weakness." Continuing, the writer says of Noah's sons that one was a
lord, the second a gentleman, the third a servile clown. Either the
usual order of the sons is changed, or Ham was held to be a gentleman
because from him was descended Nimrod, and all destroyers are gentlemen.
If this be true, then Japheth was a "servile clown,"—in spite of the
fact that he was "the first who made a targe with a lake in it, to
signify that he and his brothers possessed the whole world," inventing
heraldry,—merely in order that ungentility might have a common fount.
And thus we see that descent is efficacious to all except descendants of
Japheth (or Ham), and that therefore the genealogies are waste paper,
and a popular pursuit which has hitherto been regarded as harmless is
proved to be also fraudulent.... Then he went back to his books, which
he allowed me to see. They were pretty, uncut editions of the profane
classics; theology, Welsh history, and _Grimm's Fairy Tales_—all thumbed
and pencilled. Frowning above was a photograph of Spurgeon, and a
picture of Whitman from a chance number of an English weekly.

When I left on the next morning early, the farmer was threshing with an
oaken flail in his barn; but he stepped out to tell me what he knew of
the way through the bogs and over the hills,—for there was no road or
path,—and to beg me not to go, and to ask me to pay what I had paid at
my former inn, for my lodging.


The next twenty miles were the simplest and most pleasant in the world.
For nearly the whole way there was a farm in every two miles. I had to
call at each to ask my way. At one, the farmer asked me in and sat me by
his peat fire to get dry, and gave me good milk and butter and bread,
and a sack for my shoulders, and a sense of perfect peace which was only
disturbed when he found that I could not help him in the verses he was
writing for a coming wedding. At another, the farmer wrote out a full
list of the farms and landmarks on my way, lest I should forget, and
gave me bread and butter and milk. At another, I had but to sit and get
dry and watch an immeasurably ancient, still, and stately woman, her
face bound with black silk which came under her chin like a stock, and
moving only to give a smile of welcome and goodwill. At another, they
added cheese to the usual meal, and made the peat one golden cone upon
the hearth, and brewed a pale drink which is called tea. Sometimes the
shrill-voiced women, with no English, their hair flying in the wind,
came out and shrieked and waved directions. In one of the houses I was
privileged to go from the kitchen, with its dresser and innumerable jugs
and four tea-services, to the drawing-room. It was a change that is
probably more emphasised in Wales than elsewhere, since the kitchens are
pleasanter, the drawing-rooms more mysterious, than in England, I think.
The room was cold, setting aside the temperature, and in spite of
crimson in the upholstery and cowslip yellow in the wall-paper and
dreary green on the floor. There was a stuffed heron; a large pathetic
photograph of man and wife; framed verses; some antimacassars, and some
Bibles.... The room was dedicated to the unknown God. The farmer did not
understand it; he admired it completely, and with awe, reverencing it as
a priest his god, knowing that it never did him any good, and yet not
knowing what evil might come if he were without it.

At last, as I left landmarks behind in the rain, I reached a poor little
house where a family of sixteen sat round the peat or went about their
work, all preserving that easy dignity when their poverty is under the
eyes of a stranger which I have ever found among the Welsh. Of his own
accord, the farmer came with me over the worst part of my way—two
apparently trackless miles—until I came to a road at last. He spoke no
English; and yet I had, and think he had, a wonderful sense of
satisfaction in our companionship of an hour, as he led me over
undulating, boggy lands intersected by rivers,—which looked a little way
off like an unpeopled continent in miniature, with lake and hill and
stream,—and along the edges of steep crags that rose sheer from black
brooks and grey foam, and above hollows inhabited by perfect, golden
birches. It was a land which always comes back to me when the same cold
rain, on the top of a London omnibus, beats the face and blurs the
hurrying crowd and makes the ears tingle. Once, the rain stopped, and
the air was calm, as we passed among decaying oaks, which were as a
church full of men when the organ begins, and we no better than any one
of them.... He accepted money with as little offence as the others had
given when they refused it. As a rule, I would rather drop a sovereign
by the road than offer a man sixpence who has nothing of the lackey
about him, though imitativeness has compelled me to do otherwise.


As he left me, a mist which he had probably foreseen suddenly cloaked me
and hid everything except the road and its green edges, where the
gentlest of winds shook the rain on the feathered grasses, but could not
make it fall. The road was a river, shallow but swift, and for four
miles there was not a house visible, except when the mist divided for a
minute and showed, far away, a fair, shining, unshadowed valley, and a
white house and motionless sheep, which I saw as a departed spirit might
for a moment behold the earth; for the world was gone like last year's
clouds. Yet again, the mist rose a little and showed lawns with a lovely
dim light over the grass, as if the lawns had a light of their own which
also made them seem aloof. And strangely sufficient was the mist, the
hard road, and the moist stick in my hand, when my mood changed as when
at night bells clash as if they were building the cathedral again with
their noise, and we watch its pinnacles thus made among the stars, and
joyously they clash so that we believe they will never cease; and
suddenly they cease and slowly toll. For the inn glimmered close by, and
I heard the rustle of many sheep, and my brain began to prepare itself
for meeting men again.


Twenty miles from the sea, a little river leaves an underground lake,
flows through a cave, and falls radiant from the darkness among steep
rocks, and takes a course like a man's thoughts when they have the joy
of an unknown impulse and no certain aim. There, the river always talks
of Spring. It winds and studies all the country round,—castle and farm
and inn and old graves,—with many sharp digressions, which I suppose it
could not have done without, any more than I in a similar case. Now it
shines and curves gently and looks over its bank at the cattle, and now,
changing its voice, it is gloomy and intent among mossy stones, and now
it leaps and is all foam over a ladder of crag. Suddenly it enters a
steep, wooded valley, and falling over a perpendicular cliff, it is
richly embowered, and always remembers Summer, and begins to please the
trout where it swirls with shuddering foam or runs swiftly in the
middle, and gloomily and slow under the alder roots. But in the wood,
where birch and oak and hornbeam stand over it, it gains a look of great
and growing age which mountain rivers have, and a shadow besets its
cheerfulness, so unlike the happy prime of English waters among cowslip
meadows. When it leaves the wood it is a masterly, full-grown stream
that can turn a mill-wheel. Then it begins to pause in deep pools under
shadowy bridges, where the otter slides for a moment over a slippery
ledge and then can hide his path for fifty yards. There the girls stand
and dip their vessels, and think for a minute while the vessels fill,
and raise them again, spilling some, and show that the black water can
shine as when it left the mountain ten miles away.

Leaving a hamlet near one bridge, the river runs through such a lonely
land that even on stormy nights it is heard only by the groups and
groves of oaks that guard the stony and tussocky pastures. Here and
there, on either hand, a brook adds a murmur to its music. A throbbing
flock of lapwings for ever wheels and gleams and calls over it. The
royal fern basks on its edge. And there Autumn abides.

When it reaches the next village, the river is so yellow and poisonous
that only in great floods dare the salmon come up. There, with two other
rivers, it makes a noble estuary, and at the head of that estuary and in
the village that commands it, the old and the new seem to be at strife.

On the one hand are the magnificent furnaces; the black, wet roads; the
ugly houses, that have the one pleasing virtue of not pretending to be
anything else, with their naïvely chosen names, such as "Bryn Gwyn Bach"
and Mazawattee Villa; the cheap and pretentious chapels; yet all of them
filled with people bearing the old names,—the women called Olwen,
Myfanwy, Angharad,—loving the old songs, theologies, histories. I heard
of one man there who once heard part of _Robinson Crusoe_ told on a
winter night. For a year he struggled and learned to read, and found no
version in Welsh. Then he went to London, and while he helped to sell
milk, learned to read English, and came back home with a copy of the
desirable book.


On the other hand, there is the great water, bent as if it were a white
arm of the sea, thrust into the land to preserve the influence of the
sea. Close to the village stands a wooded barrow and an ancient camp;
and there are long, flat marches where sea-gulls waver and mew; and a
cluster of oaks so wind-worn that when a west wind comes it seems to
come from them as they wave their haggish arms; and a little desolate
white church and white-walled graveyard, which on December evenings will
shine and seem to be the only things at one with the foamy water and the
dim sky, before the storm; and when the storm comes the church is
gathered up into its breast and is a part of it, so that he who walks in
the churchyard is certain that the gods—the gods that grow old and
feeble and die—are there still, and with them all those phantoms
following phantoms in a phantom land,—a gleam of spears, a murmur of
arrows, a shout of victory, a fair face, a scream of torture, a song,
the form of some conqueror and pursuer of English kings,—which make
Welsh history, so that to read it is like walking in that place among
December leaves that seem never to have lived and been emerald, and
looking at the oaks in the mist, which are only hollows in the mist,
while an ancient wind is ceaselessly remembering ancient things.


For those who care to go into some of the art questions suggested by the
illustrations and their originals, we have included a short appreciative
criticism by Mr. A. J. Finberg. From experience we have found that the
general reader and art-lover derives enhanced pleasure from having
certain qualities brought to his notice. The art expert also may find
some interest in the artist's point of view and methods of working.

                                                          A. & C. BLACK.

                   A NOTE ON MR. FOWLER'S LANDSCAPES

                        By ALEXANDER J. FINBERG

When Rudyard Kipling's stories first gripped the imagination of the
reading public, it became the fashion among a certain set of profound
thinkers to go about asking whether such writings could really be
regarded as works of art. The author's extraordinary powers of
observation, his insight, his skill in telling his story and in
impressing the imagination of his readers, could not be gainsaid; yet
the thin shrill voices kept on repeating: "But is it art?"

I do not wish to pretend that the artist whose paintings have been
reproduced in this volume can fairly be compared with Mr. Kipling. Mr.
Robert Fowler does not aspire to fill such a place in the world of art
as Mr. Kipling fills in the world of politics and letters. But
incidentally there happen to be some few points in common between the
two men. Neither of them cares a brass button for the formulas of the
critics. Neither is oppressed by the weight of precedent and authority.
They both look at things with their own eyes and weave the texture of
their works out of their own thoughts, feelings, and sensations. They
draw their inspiration from life rather than from the books or pictures
of other men. They seem to hold that almost any material is capable of
treatment. The one has boasted that he has found nothing "common or
unclean," and the other that he has never seen an ugly thing in his
life. And the parallel will be complete enough for my purpose when all
the art critics of the kingdom begin to gird at Mr. Fowler's landscapes
for their lack of artificiality, and to ask, as the book-reviewers asked
of the Kipling stories: "But is it art?"

It may perhaps seem strange that I should imagine that Mr. Fowler's
vivid and accomplished paintings are likely to provoke such an
objection. But the temptation to judge by precedent, to test new things
by their likeness to the old, is a very strong one. This is especially
the case in matters of pictorial art. A picture that does not startle us
out of our conventional grooves of thought seems to us to be the most
natural thing in the world. We reward it for its complaisance by saying
that it is like nature. But when we are confronted by an unconventional
rendering of nature, we give expression to our ruffled feelings by
saying, either that it is unnatural, or that it is not art. At the
present time so much attention has been given to the careful study of
nature's aspects that few are likely to overlook or deny the astonishing
accuracy of Mr. Fowler's transcripts. On the other hand, those who have
a great fondness for pictures are apt to feel that his work is too much
like nature and not enough like other works of art. The design in his
pictures is often so subtle and elusive that it either seems accidental
or else is overlooked. The art is often so artfully concealed that the
astonished critic is tempted to ask, "But is it art?" I know the
temptation is very real, because—I may as well confess it—because I have
succumbed to it myself.

When first I saw some of Mr. Fowler's paintings—it was at the end of
1903, in the Goupil Gallery in London—I was struck by the accuracy with
which Mr. Fowler had reproduced his visual impressions of nature. The
work didn't look as though it had been done by a human being. "If I had
been told that these results had been produced by some new process of
colour photography I should have believed it," I wrote on the spur of
the moment. The artist seemed to have cut himself off so completely from
the art of the past, to have de-humanised himself, so to speak, that it
was perhaps natural for me to compare his methods of work with the cold
impassivity of a machine. But, though natural enough, such an impression
touches only on the most superficial aspect of Mr. Fowler's art. Unless
it is treated merely as the first step towards a more intimate
investigation, it is likely even to be misleading.

In the rough and tumble of everyday life we are often enough compelled
to act upon our first hurried impressions. It is one of the greatest
privileges of art to give us opportunities for correcting these first
impressions, for disciplining and training our very faculties of
perception. The art critic who understands his business will therefore
be jealous of his right to amplify his first impressions of an artist's
work by a more searching investigation. He will not overvalue a
reputation for consistency, if only he can develop his half-truths into
more fully articulated conceptions; he will be courageous enough to say
to-day what he thinks to-day, and to-morrow what he thinks to-morrow.

What, then, is the result of a more prolonged experience of this
artist's work? what are the essential qualities that I find in his work,
when I have done what I can to rid myself of the conscious and
unconscious prejudices that colour so inevitably one's first

In the first place, I think it is evident that Mr. Fowler is a painter
who loves nature more than pictures—a much rarer thing than many people
would suppose. Most painters learn to be original by imitating other
artists. Mr. Fowler never seems to give us echoes of other men and of
other men's works. His paintings are the immediate outcome of an
overpowering desire to embody his own feelings and sensations. To many
artists nature is interesting only in so far as she furthers their
business of making pretty pictures. But the man who painted "The Stacks,
Tenby," regarded nature as something more than the mere raw material of
art. He seems to have said to himself, "Nature is greater than all our
artifices," and to have abandoned himself to the might and splendour and
incommensurability of the great mother. The tricks of the trade are all
forgotten or abandoned. Here is no cunning artifice of line, no obvious
formula of design. The scene itself speaks to us from the canvas: the
art and the artist are forgotten.

It is the same with canvas after canvas. In the early morning scene of
"Conway from Benarth" we forget that it is a painted scene that we have
before our eyes, so resistless is the eloquence of the sleeping towers
and hills. But this concealment of himself is the very triumph of the

How rare is this power of self-suppression only those who have passed
much of their time in the company of artists and pictures can fully
realise. You will meet hundreds of clever, dexterous artists before you
will find one sincere enough to efface himself in his work, to stand
aside and let his subject speak to you for itself.

It seems to me that the largeness and peace of nature appeal most
forcibly to the artist. Such pictures as the "Conway Estuary near
Gogarth Abbey," "Llandudno Bay—a Nocturne," "A Sunny Field near
Llanberis," are so musical with the respite and peace that the artist's
soul found there. But whatever note she touches nature seldom finds him
unresponsive. "Conway Castle and Quay" lazily dozing in the noon-tide
heat, the cliffs like sleeping dragons guarding the lonely shore of the
"Barmouth Estuary," the sullen gloom of "Moelwyn," the glamour and
enchantment as of fairyland in the "Silvery Light on Conway Shore," the
rush and resounding din of "The Swallow Falls,"—all these experiences
has the artist lived through and stamped for us on the canvas.

There is one reward nature gives to those who love her with Mr. Fowler's
self-abandonment, which the illustrations of this volume prove that the
artist has gathered abundantly. He never seems to repeat himself. His
work has something of nature's infinity, her prodigality and
inexhaustible resources. We not only pass from scene to scene, but we
share the myriad adventures of the days and hear the tramp of the
seasons resounding through his pictures.

Mr. Fowler once adorned the walls of his studio with this motto: "The
world has been enough invented: let us discover it." He meant that he
had had the temerity to look at the world for himself, and that he
wanted us also to see something of the glorious things he could
discover—not invent. On another occasion he said: "I always laugh when I
hear people say that my ideal is the camera. They never see the reality
clearly enough in all its beauty to wish to reproduce it in its
entirety. I would willingly be a camera if I could get some of the
wonders I see in the fact." "Go out one of these glorious mornings," he
added, "and look at the scene just as it lies on the retina, and ask
what is wrong with this beautiful thing that one should have to haul in
'memories of _other_ days' and other people's pictures."

Mr. Fowler's landscapes show that he is not one of those who fly to
dreams to satisfy the craving for beauty that exists in every human
breast. The reality, he feels, is infinitely more wonderful than
anything we could imagine. But the full significance of reality is not
displayed on the highway so that even the most careless and indifferent
cannot fail to see it: it is only to the lover that the beauty of
reality is revealed.

In a remarkable article dealing with certain modern developments in the
art of painting which Mr. Fowler has recently published, a passage
occurs which throws considerable light on his own aims as a painter.
After criticising the absence of beauty which is noticeable in many of
the works of the modern impressionists, and commenting on the tendency
of such movements to harden into a formula, he writes: "Perhaps the
demand is unreasonable, but what one would wish to see in the near
future is the work of an artist who uses the brush simply, directly, and
delightfully, and with such a sense of structure that all the finest
_nuances_ of form, even the most vague and distant—whether of cloud or
mountain-side—get built in air as if by magic; whose colour will be so
exquisitely true that, unlike the spectral treatment, no amount of
analysis will disclose its secret; whose luminosity will not depend on
theoretic and mechanical separation of colours, but on a more vivid
visual analysis, and more consistent with the natural handling of a
brush. Added to this one wants—abstracted from the natural scene—the
noble elements of decoration and design. Also a hand so swift and sure
that it is amply able to cope with the quickly-passing phase, and able
to give back, in fact, tint for tint and tone for tone, and reproduce
that inexorable logic and consistence of lighting on which the illusion
of visual Nature herself depends. This will be 'to copy Nature,'"—and to
copy nature is, according to many artists and writers, a thing to be
avoided. "Well," adds Mr. Fowler, "it may be so. If one could only see
it done _once_, one could be a better judge."

It seems to me that the artist has done well to insist upon this point.
We hear so much of the antithesis of Beauty and Nature that we are apt
to forget that beauty may be natural and nature beautiful. Hazlitt and
Ruskin especially were constantly falling into the mistake of making the
distinction between beauty or art and nature far too cutting. "Nature,"
wrote Hazlitt, "is consistent, unaffected, powerful, subtle; art is
forgetful, apish, feeble, coarse. Nature is the original, and therefore
right; art is the copy, and can but tread lamely in the same steps." But
if art is the copy of nature, it is difficult to see how it can be so
absolutely unlike its original as Hazlitt's impassioned rhetoric would
make it out to be. Reynolds was not only a better painter than Hazlitt,
but he proves himself a better critic when he insists that "a
comprehensive and critical knowledge of the works of nature is the only
source of beauty and grandeur"; and when he writes, "The terms beauty,
or nature, are but different modes of expressing the same thing."
Reynolds was therefore consistent when he blamed the Dutch painters—not
for imitating nature, but for copying nature in a one-sided and vulgar
way, and for missing the beauties that intelligent insight and loving
sympathy can always discover.

Mr. Fowler is right in refusing to admit that beauty is unnatural or
that nature is unbeautiful. He is right in maintaining that it is not by
listening to the "fond illusion of his heart" that the poet or the
artist should create for us, but that he should see more clearly into
the nature of reality than the majority of men. In his landscapes, at
least, he has given up—so far as it may be—the desire to

                                 add the gleam,
               The light that never was, on sea or land,

and has resolved to "welcome fortitude, and patient cheer, and frequent
sights of what is to be borne." That such a man should find so much of
beauty and of joy in the world as Mr. Fowler has evidently found is
surely something to be grateful for.

The reproductions of Mr. Fowler's paintings in this volume will serve to
introduce his work to a larger public than that of the habitual haunters
of picture galleries. But this does not mean that the artist is either a
beginner or an unknown man. It is only as a landscape painter that Mr.
Fowler might perhaps be regarded as a new-comer. As a figure painter he
has already established a considerable reputation. His works have been
bought for several of the great Continental collections, and his fine
pictures of "Ariel" and "Eve and the Voices" are among the ornaments of
the Walker Art Gallery at Liverpool. Still, as a landscape painter Mr.
Fowler is practically a new-comer, and he has so far given the public
few opportunities of becoming acquainted with his powers. A few years
ago he held an exhibition at the Salon Gurlitt in Berlin of some eighty
of his "nature-portraits," as the German critics styled his work, and in
1903 some thirty of his paintings were shown in one of the exhibitions
at the Goupil Gallery in London. He has frequently exhibited figure
subjects at the Royal Academy, but only once, in 1903, has he exhibited
a landscape there. This was a large picture of "Conway Castle." It
formed a notable feature of the Central Gallery, and proved that a new
landscape painter had arisen sensitive, to an extraordinary degree, to
the fugitive and exquisite charms of natural light. Such a picture could
only have been painted by one who had devoted many years of study to
subjects that lie outside the range of the ordinary figure painter.

It was not therefore surprising to find that the artist had painted
something like two thousand studies in the open air before he could
"reproduce that inexorable logic and consistence of lighting" which
characterises the seventy or eighty pictures which are reproduced in the
present volume. For thirty years the figure painter has devoted
fragments of each year to what at first seemed the hopeless attempt to
capture those subtle and elusive beauties of nature which, through
evident lack of swiftness and skill, elude the painters, or, at best,
can only be memorised. Each year had found the artist nerving himself to
fresh efforts by saying to himself, "Nature can be actually reproduced
in paint,—given the ability," and each winter he had returned to his
studio from his campaign among the mountains wondering when, if ever,
that ability would come to him. But gradually the hand has become
quicker and more skilful, the eye more certain. After years of the most
exacting discipline something of the very illusion of the sunbeams
seemed to get on to the canvas, and the artist's hand learned the
cunning of his swift, flying, vivid, suggestive touch—a touch which
sometimes seems like an electric shock received from the tense and
excited vision.

Perhaps it is one of Mr. Fowler's most conspicuous merits that his works
seem to have sprung up spontaneously in response to the artist's
passionate interest in nature's aspects. He has not turned for support
to the formulas of abstract science. He has simply felt a genuine
passion for the truth and beauty of the visible concrete reality, and he
has clung with admirable tenacity and faith to what he has himself felt
and proved to be of worth. For in art, as in every other walk of life,
the enemy of all excellence and of all progress is the tendency to
accept ready-made habits of thought, to go with the crowd, to rely upon
routine and machinery. So few are ready to "pay in their person," to win
their way to a higher standpoint by dint of their own sufferings,
exertions, and failures.

It is this readiness to "pay in his person" that seems to form the
distinguishing note of Mr. Fowler's work. He has discarded all
picture-making formulas, setting himself to put on record as definite a
statement as possible of his own feelings and sensations in the presence
of nature. If only he could get something of what he himself had seen,
he knew it would be beautiful enough. The whole merit of his work thus
springs from his initial, his fundamental determination to see true, and
to paint things in their actual relationship.

Work like that of Mr. Fowler is particularly liable to be misjudged by
an ignorant or hasty glance. It is easy for those who do not consider
what art is to call it artless, and for those who do not see deeply into
the infinite beauty of nature to sneer at it as "a mere transcript of
nature." "As painting is an art," says Reynolds—and he knew what he was
talking about—"they" (the ignorant) "think they ought to be pleased in
proportion as they see that art ostentatiously displayed; they will from
this supposition prefer neatness, high finishing, and gaudy colouring to
the truth, simplicity, and unity of nature." But it is not to the
undiscriminating that Mr. Fowler's work makes its appeal; his aim is
rather to use art than to make a display of it. And such work rewards us
for all the interest we can take in it.

                                THE END

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search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.